Around 1700, a boy was born in the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) town of Axim. According to some sources, he was Nzema (an Akan people), an enthnic-group known for their native philosophizing. His name was Anton Wilhelm Amo, also known as Antonius Guilielmus Amo Afer ab Aximo in Guinea. He is dubbed the “first intellectual of African origin” to ever study in 18th century Germany, during the time when the Enlightenment was the zeitgeist of European philosophy.
When he was about Seven he was brought to Amsterdam, the Netherlands by the Dutch West India Company as a gift to the then Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel in Saxony, Urlic Anton, who later together with his son Augustus Wilhelm, adopted and baptized the boy with a new Christian name, Anton Wilhelm.
In the year 1727, his new guardians allowed him to join the Law School of the Universität Halle, in Germany, which at the time has a profound reputation as a center of the Enlightenment movement (a predominantly Franco-German intellectual movement: known in French as the ”Siècle des Lumières” (Century of Enlightenment) and in German as the ”Aufklärung”). At this time produced the first of his powerful works, a dissertation of his graduation, “The Rights of Moors in Europe”, which presumably has been inaccessible in publication ever since for no obvious reasons.
After he moved to the sister university,University of Wittenberg , “studying logic, metaphysics, physiology, astronomy, history, law, theology, politics, and medicine, and mastered six languages (English, French, Dutch, Latin, Greek, and German).”
As a contemporary of renowned philosophers like Immanuel Kant, Denis Diderot, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, David Hume and Thomas Hobbes, Anton Wilhelm, got his Doctorate Degree in Philosophy from the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg after successfully presenting and defending his memorably brilliant thesis, De humanae mantis apatheia (EN – “The Impassivity of the Human Mind“) in 1734.
In 1736, after he was made a professor under his previous Guinean name, Antonius Guilelmus Amo Afer he went to lecture at Halle University, an experience from which he wrote his second major work “Treatise on the Art of Philosophising Soberly and Accurately” in 1738, in which, according critics “he developed an empiricist epistemology very close to but distinct from that of philosophers such as John Locke and David Hume.”
1740 was the year he moved to the University of Jena as a philosophy lecturer, though his life at this university was turbulent, a time during which he was an object of hate among the white intellectuals for being, Schwarz – a nigger island amidst a white ocean. This eventually led to the marginalization his works “by… Jena-based German intellectuals such as Schiller, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Brentano, or the Schlegel brothers.”
As a result of a series of unfortunate events in Germany including the spectre of rising racism (especially for a person of African origin like him) and the death of his close friend, protector as well as defender, Johannes Peter von Ludewig, he was forced to go back to the place of his birth, Axim in 1747, where he “lived as a hermit” until his gradual death in 1753.
Surprisingly and unexpectedly, in 1965 the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg erected a statue in his commemoration and since 1994 the university awards the the “Anton-Wilhelm-Amo-Prize” for excellent academic achievements of students and postgraduates in honor of the black philosopher from Axim.