Honor this Philosopher

In our last issue we published an article by the Guardian titled “Berlin to rename ‘Moor Street’ after black philosopher Anton Wilhelm Amo” on our front page and a piece on the man discussed elsewhere in the same issue.

After years of socio-political wrangling, roadblocks, and obstacles faced by historians, ethnologists and other organizations, Berlin is finally on the right move by putting things in their right perspective. The association Decolonize Berlin spearheaded the initiative to rename the street Anton Wilhelm Amo. The association together with other groups believe the street name is racist that needs to be confined and retired to the doldrums of history. Moor Street (Mohrenstraße) located in the City of Berlin’s Mitte district was considered as offensive and racist by progressives based on the notion that the name was derived from black slaves in Germany in the late 17th century.

We are talking about William Anthony Amo (aka Antoine-Guillaume Amo; Anton Wilhelm Amo), born in 1703 in a small fishing village near Axim in present day Ghana. Four years later, at the tender age of four, Amo was sent to the Netherlands by Johannes van der Star, a preacher, and presented as a “gift”  to the reigning Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, who in turn entrusted little Amo to his son, Augustus William. He went through the rudiments of palace training, and served as a  “chamber moor” in the process at the Prussian court.

Amo was sponsored through school by his adopted parents and was admitted to the Prussian University as a student of Philosophy and Jurisprudence where he matriculated on June 9, 1727. Antoine-Guillaume Amo obtained a Master’s degree in Philosophy and the Liberal Arts in 1730 at the University of Wittenberg. He defended his thesis De Jure Maurorum in Europa in 1729 at a public disputation with the Chancellor of the University, Professor Johanna Peter von Ludwig at the University of Halle where he obtained a Doctorate in Philosophy. Professor Amo taught and influenced Immanuel Kant who was to become one of the greatest philosophers of all time. In 1733, Amo was chosen to lead a procession when Emperor Frederick of Prussia visited Halle. Besides his stellar academic credentials, this was no small accomplishment – especially in that era – for an African. William Anthony Amo was indubitably, “something else.”  He became fluent and lectured in Greek, Latin, French, Dutch, Hebrew, and German languages. He published a dissertation in 1734, between the borderline of medicine and psychology, (logic, metaphysics, physiology, geomancy, astronomy, theory of codes, and palmistry) which earned him the envious and prestigious spot as a university lecturer. Amo was a rationalist philosopher after Leibnitz, whom as a boy he had met at the Duke of Brunswick’s. His magnum opus believed to have covered the entire field of Logic (theory of knowledge, metaphysics, etc.) was developed between 1734 and 1737 and published the following year. Not only was William Anthony Amo Germany’s first black philosopher, he is also believed to have been the first African-born student to attend a European university.

Ghanaians, Africans and the rest of the world do not have to travel to Berlin to see an honored African with his name on a metal plate. His name deserves to be etched in stone on an important monument or edifice such as an airport or an institute of higher learning in Ghana, his place of birth. He definitely deserves more than a Street name. Germany has beaten Ghana to honor a hero of the latter but it’s not too late to swallow a pride and do the right thing – a clear case of Sankofa!

Anthony William Amo deserves to be honored, and rightly so!

Posted by on Sep 14 2020. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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