Celebrating Theodor Wonja Michael – Today’s Doodle celebrates Afro-German author, journalist, actor, government official, and social activist Theodor Wonja Michael, who survived a German labor camp to become the nation’s first Black federal civil service officer. Dedicated throughout his wide-ranging career to the struggle against racism, he lived to become one of the oldest remaining representatives of a historic generation of Black German people. On this day in 2013, Michael published his emotive memoir “Black German: An Afro-German Life in the Twentieth Century.”
In 1925, Theodor Wonja Michael was born on January 15 in Berlin, Germany to a father of Cameroonian birth and a native German mother. After elementary school, he was denied occupational training due to Germany’s discriminatory Nuremberg Laws. He pursued acting instead, but at 18 he was sent to work in a forced labor camp.
After the end of World War II, Michael went on to earn a master’s degree in political science. He pursued a career in journalism and founded and edited the journal “Afrika-Bulletin.” In 1971, he agreed to contribute his expertise of African issues to West Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, where he worked as a secret agent and retired as a director in 1987. Initially hesitant to join, Michael used his government service to fight discrimination from within and open doors for other Black Germans. He eventually returned to acting and became one of Germany’s most renowned Shakespearean stage actors.
In honor of his role as a representative of the Black German community, Michael became the first recipient of the nation’s Black History Month Award in 2009.
Happy birthday, Theodor Wonja Michael! Your story continues to inspire new generations to stand firm in the fight against racial prejudice.
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