The Mohrenstraße (Moor Street) in Berlin’s Mitte district will have its name changed to Anton-Wilhelm-Amo-Straße, district officials decided on Thursday evening.
The surprise announcement, confirmed by the district office on Friday, came after the local Green and Social Democrat parties submitted a motion to rename the street “without delay”.
“According to our current understanding of democracy, the name’s racist core is oppressive and damages Berlin’s national and international reputation,” said the SPD and Green parties when requesting the change.
The SPD tweeted a picture showing the name of the street crossed out.
Klarer #Beschluss und ein toller Erfolg: Auch die #bvvmitte schließt sich der #Zivilgesellschaft an und fordert das @BA_Mitte_Berlin auf, den Prozess der #Umbenennung der M*straße unverzüglich einzuleiten. Neuer Name soll Anton-Wilhelm-#Amo-Straße werden. Ein Meilenstein. ? pic.twitter.com/nAyqacjZnd
— SPD Berlin-Mitte (@spdmitte) August 20, 2020
'A great day'
Activists have welcomed the decision after years of campaigning. The anti-racism initiative Berlin Postkolonial expressed its joy at the change saying: “Berlin Writes World History”.
(article continues below)
See also on The Local:
The street will now be named after Anton Wilhelm Amo, who is said to be Germany’s first well-known philosopher and legal scholar of African origin.
Brought to Europe as a child from Ghana, he became the first African-born person to attend a German university, receiving his education and later teaching at the Prussian University of Halle.
Spokesman for Berlin Postkolonial, Mnyaka Sururu Mboro, said: “This is a great day: Berlin is banishing an insult from the city and honouring with Amo a resistant scholar from Africa.”
Black Lives Matter protesters in Berlin in June. Photo: DPA
Debate resurfaced during Black Lives Matter protests
The long-standing debate surrounding the controversial street name came to a head following the death in the US of black man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer. It sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the globe, including many in Germany.
Mohren, the German word for Moors, refers to Black slaves brought from North Africa to Berlin in the early 18th century, and is widely considered to be racist and derogatory.
Critics have long since refused to use the name, referring to the street instead as M-Straße (M-Street). In June, protestors covered the name of the U-Bahn station with a cardboard sign to ‘rename’ it as ‘George Floyd Street’.
The move by the city bypasses plans to involve citizens in the renaming process, as occurred with the renaming of streets in the city’s African Quarter in Wedding.
The debate surrounding Mohrenstraße was also brought back into the spotlight in July, when the Berlin transport company (BVG) said it would rename the street’s U-Bahn station to Glinkastraße due to racism concerns.
They soon came under fire from critics who highlighted that Russian composer Mikhail Glinka, who died around the corner, was an anti-semite.
Announcing a U-Turn soon after, the BVG said it was open to other suggestions and was committed to finding a suitable solution.