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Black History and Germany - Afro-German Glossary

Afrodeutsche - Vocabulary


Afro-German Glossary

Die Neue Schwarze Bewegung
As mentioned earlier, the general awareness of Germans that there are German black people is a relatively new phenomenon. In their 1986 book Farbe bekennen - Afrodeutsche Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte May Ayim and Katharina Oguntoye opened up a debate about being "black in Germany." Although the book dealt primarily with black women in German society, it introduced the term "Afro-German" into German vocabulary (borrowed from "Afro-American" or "African American") and also sparked the founding of a support group for blacks in Germany, the ISD (Initiative Schwarzer Deutscher e.V.), in that same year.

Famous Afrodeutsche - Past and Present
The following list is a sample of Afro-Germans who are known for their work in the arts, on television, in sports, or in other areas of public life.

  • Nadja Abd el Farrag (1960- ), TV announcer, authoress
  • Mola Adebisi (1973- ), TV host (VIVA 1993-2004), musician
  • Anton Wilhelm Amo (1703-1759), philosopher, professor
  • Gerald Asamoah (1978- ), pro soccer player (Schalke 04)
  • May Ayim (May Opitz, 1960-1996), writer, poet
  • Liz Baffoe (1969- ), actress, "Lindenstraße" soap opera
  • Barbara Feltus Becker (1966- ), model, fashion designer, ex-wife of Boris Becker
  • Roberto Blanco (1937- ), singer
  • Karin Boyd (1960- ), actress, Mephisto (1981)
  • Bruce Darnell (1957- ), U.S.-born model, TV personality
  • Pierre Geisensetter (1972- ), actor, TV announcer
  • Charles M. Huber (1956- ), actor ("Der Alte" TV series), author
  • Cherno Jobatey (1965- ), TV host (ZDF-Morgenmagazin)
  • Arabella Kiesbauer (1969- ), Austrian-born TV personality
  • Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi (1926- ), journalist, retired magazine editor
  • Xavier Naidoo (Xavier Kurt Naidoo, 1971- ), musician, singer
  • Katharina Oguntoye (1959- ), historian, writer
  • Ron Williams (1942- ), U.S.-born actor, singer, TV personality

GLOSSARY: 'afrodeutsch' Vocabulary
Neger, Neger, Schornsteinfeger

Up until the late 1980s and early 1990s Germans freely used words such as Neger ("negro" or the n-word), Negerkuss ("negro kiss," a type of chocolate candy), Farbige ("colored"), and other terms that are considered either offensive or inappropriate today. But the relatively new word Afrodeutscher (Afro-German) is still not widely used in the German language today.

Because black Germans are such a small minority, many Germans really have not developed the sensitivity and awareness of how to act around people with dark skin. It was not many years ago that a Duden editor, when asked why his respected German dictionary still listed "Neger," but did not contain the word "Afrodeutsche/Afrodeutscher," defended the use of the word "Neger" by saying that skin-color discrimination was not a language problem, but a social-political one. My 1999 Oxford-Duden German-English Dictionary lists several afro/Afro- compound words, including Afroamerikaner and even Afrokubaner, but not Afrodeutscher! The 2006 Duden does list afrodeutsch and der/die Afrodeutsche, plus a commentary on the problem with "Neger" words. For Germans the issue of "political correctness" in this regard resembles the American debate over the use of "Indian" names for sports teams. In the German music world, the Afro-German rapper B-Tight caused a stir with his song "Der Neger in mir" ("The Nigger in Me"). Many of his fellow black hip-hop and "Deutschrap" singers took offense at the song's lyrics, containing words like "Scheißnigger."

NOTE: The following German-English glossary should be used with caution. Many of the German terms listed here are perjorative and/or offensive. Some of them were used during Nazi times (and later) to denigrate blacks.

  • Besatzungskind, das "occupation child," a child born of a black GI and a German mother after 1945
  • Farbige, der colored (person)
  • Mischling, der mixed-breed, bastard
  • Mohr, der moor (dated term)
  • Mulatte, der mulatto m.
  • Mulattin, die mulatto f.
  • Neger, der negro (but also has a bad connotation similar to "nigger")
  • Negerkuss, der "negro kiss" (chocolate candy)
    More 'PC' term: der Schokokuss ("chocolate kiss")
  • Negerlein, das little negro, "Black Sambo"
  • Negermusik, die negro music, jazz (term used by Nazis)
  • neger sein to be broke (slang, dialect)
  • Rassismus, der racism
  • Schwarze, der/die black person (male/female)
    ein Schwarzer a black man, eine Schwarze a black woman
  • Zehn kleine Negerlein Ten Little Negros/Sambos (Ten Little Indians)
  • Adé, D-Flame, Torch, Ebony Prince, and Linguist are the names of 'afrodeutsche' Rapper

Watch for more vocabulary and a bibliography for this topic.

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