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General News of Sunday, 20 December 2020


How a Ghanaian slave became a respected philosopher in Germany

Anton Wilhelm Amo is one of the most respected black philosophers in the 18th century Anton Wilhelm Amo is one of the most respected black philosophers in the 18th century

One of the many slaves to have left the shores of Ghana did so in the year 1730.

At age four, the story of his life began, not on a good note, but little did he know it will lead to something great.

Anton Wilhelm Amo was his name, born in 1703 and hailed from Axim in the Western region of present-day Ghana.

According to records, Wilhelm Amo was taken to Amsterdam by a preacher working in Ghana to serve the Dutch West Indies Company.

Slavery which is now frowned upon and abolished all over the world was rather a norm at the time as Wilhelm Amo was later given out as a 'gift’ to Dukes August Wilhelm and Ludwig Rudolf von Wolfenbüttel in Germany as a child-slave.

He had to serve as a so-called “chamber moor” in the Prussian court in Germany. The term can be referred to today as an “errand boy”.

Amo was also baptized and later affirmed in the Duke’s palace chapel and was treated as a member of the Duke’s family.

After his service, Amo got the opportunity to study in the Halle and Jena universities where he became Germany's first black philosopher and writer.

At the University of Halle, he entered the Law School where he completed his preliminary studies within two years.

Two years after that, Amo received the equivalent of a doctorate in philosophy from Germany’s University of Wittenberg.

During his study, Amo is believed to have been the first African-born student to attend a European university and was said to have still found time to master seven languages during his lifetime.

For some of his philosophical honors, Amo published work across a variety of disciplines from philosophy to psychology and established himself as a renowned enlightenment thinker.

He is notable to be one of the most respected black philosophers in the 18th century who also fought for the abolishing of slavery.

As time went on, his beliefs and opposition to slavery led to his decision to return back to present day Ghana where remained until he passed on.

Most recently in October this year, search engine company, Google honored Anton Wilhelm Amo with a doodle on its website illustrated by Berlin-based guest artist Diana Ejaita to celebrate the Ghanaian-German philosopher, academic and writer.

Speaking about Anton Wilhelm Amo at this year’s commemoration of International Migrants Day, a senior programme coordinator at the PME Ghana, David Tette said “He is somebody who set the pace for most us to go outside overseas as a migrant, acquired knowledge, come back with what he learnt and used it to better our lot here in Ghana. There are lot of other people who also did same by coming back to contribute to national development.”