Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Berlin-based guest artist Diana Ejaita, celebrates Ghanian-German philosopher, writer, and academic Anton Wilhelm Amo— widely credited as one of Europe’s first African-born university students and professors as well as one of the 18th century’s most notable Black philosophers. On this day in 1730, Amo received the equivalent of a doctorate in philosophy from Germany’s University of Wittenberg.
Amo was born around 1703 near the town of Axim on Africa’s Gold Coast (now Ghana). Though the circumstances of his relocation are unclear, Amo grew up in Amsterdam, where he was given the name Anton Wilhelm by the family he lived with. Amo began his university studies in 1727 and two years later completed his first dissertation: a legal and historical argument against European slavery.
Amo published work across a variety of disciplines from philosophy to psychology and established himself as a renowned Enlightenment thinker. He went on to teach at a number of German universities, and also found time to master seven languages during his lifetime. An influential champion for the cause of abolition, Amo ultimately became embattled by racism and opposition to his beliefs. In 1747, he sailed back to present-day Ghana, where he remained for the rest of his life.
In honor of Amo’s legacy, the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg erected a statue in his likeness in 1965. In August 2020, Berlin announced plans to name a street after him in the city’s Mitte district.
Guest Artist Q&A with Diana Ejaita
Today’s Doodle was illustrated by Berlin-based guest artist Diana Ejaita. Below, she shares her thoughts behind the making of this Doodle:
Q: Why was this topic meaningful to you personally?
A: As a kid of the African diaspora based in Berlin, I've been actively following the movement in the city to replace street/road names of individuals who contributed to the atrocities of colonization. A couple of months ago, I heard the news that one of the streets in Berlin would be officially named after a Ghanian philosopher who was the first African student and professor of a German University: Anton Wilhelm Amo. So, I am very honored and excited to see history connecting with our everyday lives to give us hope for the future.
Q: What were your first thoughts when you were approached about the project?
A: I was very emotional and honored. Celebrating Anton Wilhelm is so important because I know how movements and activists often struggle to receive recognition in our history about their contributions to Germany. I was excited to have the chance to add my skills and contribute to narrating these stories.
Q: Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular for this Doodle?
A: Anton Wilhelm Amo's history and the wish to give him a fitting homage. I wanted the story to be told with respect.
Q: What do you hope people take away from your Doodle?
A: I would like people to understand that things are more complex than the system often portrays. We are much more connected and alike than we think and we all have gifts and surprises to offer each other, no matter our background.