The M*straße was named around 1700 after a delegation of African representatives who were summoned from the Brandenburg colony of Großfriedrichsburg (today’s Ghana) to the court of Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I (1657 – 1713) in 1684 after the conclusion of so-called “treaties of protection”. The vernacular christened the path between the inn and the palace in M*straße after the racist foreign term “Mohr”, which discriminates people of colour. In 1710, the name M*straße is documented in the first city map of the royal capital and residence city of Berlin. After reunification, the nearby subway station was renamed from Otto-Grotewohl-Straße to M*straße in 1991.
The street name is directly linked to German colonial history and its crimes. Friedrich Wilhelm I claimed dominion over the colonial fortress of Groß-Friedrichsburg (Princes Town/Pokesu). The fortress was built by the naval forces of his father, Elector Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg (1620 – 1688), on the West African coast in 1683. The Brandenburg-African Company participated in the European slave trade and in the process abducted more than 20,000 West African children, women, and men into slavery in the Americas.
Status of the Renaming
Even now, the street and the train station are carry the discriminatory designation, although in June 2020 more than 100 scholars under the leadership of the Institute for European Ethnology, which is located on M* Street, demanded that the name be changed. The Berlin Development Policy Council (BER) recommends that in renaming M* Street and the subway station with the same name, the reference to the history of enslavement of Black people and their lives in the diaspora should be maintained, but the perspective of remembrance should be reversed. Decolonize Berlin proposes Anton Wilhelm Amo as the new name. On July 3, 2020, BVG reported that the subway station will be renamed Glinkastraße.