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Gifted to a Prussian prince, this black Nubian became a notable Afro-German in the 1800s

September 04, 2018 at 09:23 am | History

Nduta Waweru

Nduta Waweru | Contributor

September 04, 2018 at 09:23 am | History

Photo: Wiki CC

Before he came to be known as August Sabac el Cher, he was a young Nubian boy growing up in Kurdufan in Ancient Nubia (modern-day Sudan.)

History states that he came from a Nubian Sheikh dynasty that fell during the Egyptian invasion of Nubia. His father died in the rebellion and his mother died by suicide according to a traditional custom. Cher was then taken to Cairo, where he received an education.

Around 1843, the youngest brother of Prussian King Fredrick Williams IV, Prince Albrecht travelled to Egypt.  Reports indicate he was sent on a long journey instead of jail after he killed a man and his choice of Egypt was not a coincidence. There were quite a number of archaeological activities going on at the time and the Prince wanted to see what it was all about.

It was on this visit that Prince Albrecht was gifted a young Nubian boy, whom he named the only Arabic phrase he knew, ‘Sabac el Cher,’ which means ‘good morning’.  The prince took Cher on his escapades all over Egypt, to Jerusalem, Beirut and back to Europe, arriving in Berlin on August 1843.

Sabac el Cher kneeling next to Prince Albrecht. Photo: Wiki CC

On arrival in Berlin, Cher underwent a medical examination and was estimated to be 7 years old. He stayed at Prince Albrecht’s palace, living with the other servants.  He learnt German and Christianity under German tutors who described him as an ‘attentive student’. He was baptised at 16 and given the name August and Albrecht.

He was still a committed servant to Prince Albrecht, with whom he fought at the Caucasus in 1862. Both were honoured for their military efforts, with Cher receiving a gold pocket watch from Russians Czarina, Princess Charlotte, who was Albrecht’s sister.  Cher also took part in the German unification war of 1864, and in the 1870  Franco-Prussian war.

After the death of Prince Albrecht in 1872, Cher was made the silver administrator of the palace by Albrecht’s eldest son.  He served in this position until his retirement in 1876 due to ill health.

All this time he was not a confirmed Prussian citizen until 1882 when he received a certificate of neutralisation. He died three years later, leaving behind his wife, Anna Maria Jung and son, Gustav Sabac el Cher, who grew up to be a famous soldier and musician.

Sabac el Cher’s wife and son.

Cher became one of the most popular Afro-Germans celebrated today as a sign of the first contact between Germany and Europe.  His story has been featured in books and films and in events, including a posthumous tribute that took place in 2006.

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