Cameroonian Martin Dibobe is an unsung hero. He was the first black train driver in Germany, despite the racial prejudice during the colonial era.
He is revered in colonial history as the one of greatest civil rights activists of his time. Named Quane a Dibobe at birth in October 31, 1876 in Bonapriso (Cameroon), his name was changed by the missionaries to Martin Dibobe. He was one of the first Cameroonians who traveled to Germany in 1896 at the age of 20.
When Kamerun was a German colony, Dibobe traveled to Germany to represent Cameroon at the Great Industrial Exhibition in Berlin in 1896.
His role in Treptower Park was to display “African everyday life”.
He spent six months as an “exhibit” at the park . After the end of the exhibition he remained in Berlin and began an apprenticeship as a locksmith at the Conrad Schultz company in Strausberg.
Dibobe’s life had an unprecedented twist as he got engaged to Helene Noster, his master’s daughter.
Despite stiff objection from German Colonial authorities, they got married in 1900.
In 1902, Dibobe worked as a dispatcher on the Berlin U-Bahn and later became a first-class conductor.
Dibobe was a firebrand advocate for the equal status of Africans in Germany. He was proposed by other Africans to be a permanent representative in the Reichstag.
On June 27, 1919, he submitted a petition calling for independence and civil rights for all people moving in and out lived in the colonies.
Unable to bear the racial injustice, Dibobe decided to return to Cameroon. At that time Cameroun was controlled by the French. On arrival in Cameroon, the French refused him from getting into Douala, for fear that he may cause an uprising in favour of the Germans.
Prevented from getting onshore in his own native land, Dibobe was forced to travel to Liberia. His trail was lost. He died in Liberia in 1922.
Google celebrated him on June 27th, 2023.