Hallam academic leads memorial for anti-colonial activist Joseph Bilé

28th April 2022

A plaque to commemorate Joseph Bilé, one of the most important German-speaking Black political activists, has been placed in Berlin thanks to a Sheffield Hallam academic.

Joseph Ekwe Bilé was a Black anti-colonial activist, actor, and war veteran and one of the foremost anti-colonial and anti-racist activists in Germany during the interwar period. The plaque was placed in front of one of his Berlin addresses. 

Robbie Aitken, Professor of Imperial History at Sheffield Hallam University, and Dekoloniale, a German non-profit organisation, applied for the memorial to bring new visibility to Germany’s Black anti-colonial and anti-racist activists. 

Professor Aitken said:

“Construction engineer, war veteran, singer, dancer, film and theatre performer, anti-colonial and anti-racist activist, Pan-Africanist, and Communist – the Cameroonian Joseph Ekwe Bilé was all these things and more.  

“Without doubt Bilé was one of the most important German-speaking Black political activists of the Weimar era. His active involvement in the intersecting transnational networks of the Communist International and Pan-Africanism gave a political voice to Germany’s Black community.” 

The unveiling of the memorial was opened by Dr Christine Regus, Head of the Memorials, Museums, Fine Arts Department for the City of Berlin. Anna Yeboah from Dekoloniale spoke from the perspective of Germany’s Black community and read a letter sent from Bilé’s grandson in Cameroon.  

The application for the plaque by Professor Aitken marks part of his ongoing work to bring new visibility to Germany’s Black historical presence, following his extensive research into the history of Germany’s Black community.  

In September 2021, Professor Aitken also successfully initiated two stumbling block memorials for Black victims of the holocaust.

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