The Ethiopian Song

Italian nineteenth century adventures in Africa were
long opposed by large sections of the Italian population
at home as can be seen by a glance at the files of old
Italian newspapers, such as for example, the socialist
Avanti or Critica Sociale.

The following song by Ulisse Barbieri, a democratic
Italian poet, symbolises this attitude. It first appeared
nine years before the battle of Adowa, on July 14, 1887,
in the Provincia di Mantova, the local weekly news-
paper of the town of that name. It is sung to the tune
of ” Inno di Garibaldi” (Song of Garibaldi), then a
popular democratic song in Italy:

In nome d’un dritto—che a noi si contende
Ognun le sue leggi—la patria diffende.
I martiri nostri—li chiaman . . . spioni.
Con forche e cannoni—ci voglion domar.

Le “tende” dei nostri—son fatte per noi;
Son la oltre il mare—le case dei tuoi! . . .
Su armiamci a battaglia! —Su armiamci a legioni!
Le forche e i cannoni—sapremo sfidar! . . .
Va fuori dall’Africa,
non siamo predoni;
va fuori dall’Africa
vigliacco stranier!

Che importa a noi liberi—dei codici vostri?
Che importan le leggi—non fatte per noi?
Do dritti parlante?—Lasciateci i nostri.
Noi nulla del vostro—vogliamo da voi.
II cielo, il deserto—il mar, gli orizzonti,
Le vette inaccesse—abbiamo dei monti,
Veleno hanno gli alberi—le braccia zagaglie
son nostro tripudio—canzoni a battaglia.
Va fuori, ecc.

Dei nostri deserti—son vaste le arene,
Ruggisce il leone—va ulran le iene.
E noi del Hone—piu forte il ruggito,
Mandiam per l’immenso—deserto infino.
Ruggito di liberi—che ai vostri moschetti,
Baluardo invincible—oppongono i petti;
Son cupe le gole—dei nostri burroni;
Saremo legioni—la patria a salvar.
Va fuori, ecc.

Son pochi i mandati piu ancor ne vogliamo! . . .
Migliaia e migliaia—mandatene ancor . . .
Piu bella la festa—sara che aspettiamo,
Piu grande la strage—che anela ogni cor!

Intorno alle teste—recise dal brando
e membra dei morti—col fuoco bruciando,
Trancato col ferro—1’anelito estremo . . .
Ancor urleremo—va fuori o stranier!
Coll’—odio nell’ anima
ancor urleremo . . .
Va fuori dall’ Africa,
Va fuori stranier.


The Cost to the Victor

The cost to the Ethiopians of defeating the Italian
invaders at Adowa was heavy and was paid by thou-
sands of Ethiopian families from all parts of the coun-
try. The full extent, of Ethiopia’s loss may be judged
from an account of Augustus B. Wylde, sometime
British consul for the Red Sea, who reached Massawa
six weeks after the battle, having been sent by the Man-
chester Guardian to investigate the causes of the Italian
defeat. In his book Modern Abyssina he relates that
during his tour of Northern Ethiopia he was first visited
at Adi Caieh by Ethiopians who gave him terrible
accounts of the famine and cholera that had devastated
the country as a result of the human carnage. As he
approached the site of the battle, he found the familiar
countryside tragically transformed.

“From a distance a hamlet on the mountain side
might be seen, and looked as if it were perfect, only no
people could be seen moving about, and no smoke issu-
ing from the cottages. On approaching, the roofs of the
huts would be found in bad repair, and on entering it,
not a human being was to be seen. The doors of the
building were nearly off their hinges, the torn bushes
that shut the enclosures round the huts were to one side,
and grass and weeds were growing everywhere; a more
luxurious patch of vegetation or rank grass, about six
feet length by two in breath, would mark the spot where
some poor victim lay unburied. On looking into the
houses they would be found as if the occupants had just
vacated them, but on closer examination, when the eye
got accustomed to the semi-darkness inside after the
glare of the bright sunshine in the open, several skeletons
would be found, either on the raised end of the hut or
on a bedstead. In one hut I found five remains; one was
that of a woman, as I could tell by the remains of her
dress, alongside of her on the same bed lay two small
skeletons, one a little larger than the other, both of the
little skulls resting on the arm bones of what perhaps
was their mother. Behind the door was another body,
evidently a boy, the leg bones stretched out and those
of the upper part of the body in a small heap. The owner
of them had evidently died with his back resting against
the wall; the last body was curled up near the fire-place
alongside which were several empty cooking vessels.
One examination of these abandoned villages was
enough for me, and from this specimen I could see what
this fertile country had suffered from the series of years
of war, famine and pestilence.” Everywhere were “burnt
villages and destruction.”

“The best view of Adowa,” he continues, “is to be
obtained from the hill on which are situated the old
ruins of the Jesuit town of Fremona, which is situated
to the north-west and about two and a half miles off.
Two miles further off to the north is the monastic
settlement of Adi Aboona, the property of the Aboona or
chief of the Ethiopian Church. Although Adi Aboona is
on slightly higher ground than Adowa, a good view of
it is not to be got owing to an out-jutting spur from
Mount Selado, which ends just vis-a-vis to Fremona.
From the latter the whole panorama of the town is
spread out before one, and to me after an absence of
twelve years I could hardly believe that the heap of
ruins and the nearly deserted houses were the same place
that I had spent so many pleasant days in. With the
exception of the five churches of Our Saviour, the
Trinity, the Virgin Mary, Saint Michael and Saint
George and some few large houses, the place seemed to
be a mass of ruins and broken-down enclosures.
“I had come from Aksum by the direct road and on my
way the villages the nearer one got to Adowa showed
what the country had gone through, as the majority
of the houses were unroofed and in a tumble-down con-
dition. Skulls of men and bones of animals were fre-
quent, victims of the famine and the plague, and every
yard from Fremona towards once happy Adowa pre-
sented some fresh horror . . . here were the remains of
unburied humanity, dirt, filth and corruption at every
step, and, although the heavy rains had washed away
parts of the fragments, and the grass was growing
luxuriantly, still a sickly smell of decaying flesh per-
vaded the atmosphere, and every few yards I had to put
my handkerchief to my nose and go as fast as possible.
I asked Schrimper if he called it healthy and a fit place
to come to, and he replied, ‘Oh, this is nothing to what
it was ten days’ ago; it was not sweet then. ‘Nearing the
end of the town the ground was not so bad, and at the
market-place it was clean enough, and there was nothing
much to grumble about; but still there was a sort of
unhealthy feeling, and my spirits were down at seeing
the ruins, the misery and the alteration in everything. I
looked in vain for the good houses and the enclosures
with their nice shady trees that used to exist at the
west of the market green. Ras Aloula’s fine establish-
ment, that formerly covered the ledge of ground above
the market, was in ruins, the bare walls and the black-
ened timbers alone marking the spot where once used
to be a well-ordered household . . .

“The day after my arrival at Adowa, I made the first
of many visits to the battlefield, perhaps the most dis-
agreeable task I ever had to perform in my life, one
position being more foul smelling and disgusting than
another. A burying party of Italian engineers had been
allowed by the Ethiopians to come and inter the dead,
but the condition of the corpses prevented them from
being moved, and a few loose stones were their only
covering which, instead of facilitating the decomposition,
only retarded it; not half of the bodies had been attended
to, and in some places, putrescent masses held together
by ragged clothes marked the details of the fight . . .
Bird and animal life was absent, they even could not
face the horrible Golgotha, and the hyenas had long ago
left the district to procure something more tempting than
what the battlefield offered them … There are some
things in one’s life that never can be forgotten, and this
is one of them that I shall carry with me as long as I
live, and shudder when I think of the thousands of white,
brown and black men that lay dotted about this lovely
country, that gave up their lives to gratify an election-
eering policy in a far-off land’.”


How the News was received in England

The English “man in the street,” who until then had
been profoundly unaware of Italian diplomatic
manoeuvres to annex Ethiopia, opened his newspaper
sixty years ago to learn that, for the first time since
the Carthagian Hannibal marched into the Valley of
the Po some two thousand years earlier, an army from
Africa had decisively defeated a large and well equipped
European force. It is interesting to examine how these
events were presented to the British public by The
Times, and how that semi-official newspaper explained
what it considered to be the interest of the British

The dramatic news from Africa immediately resulted
in the collapse of the Italian Government of Signer
Crispi, which was considered responsible for the defeat.
Newspapers all over the world were therefore con-
fronted almost simultaneously with exciting war reports
and news of an Italian Cabinet crisis. The Rome
Government had of course been deeply implicated in
the Ethiopian war and only a few days before the battle,
The Times had published a revealing report from its
Rome correspondent which illustrates Franco-Italian
jealousy about the intended partition of the Horn of
Africa. It asserted that the Italian Government was
aware of “a secret treaty” between France and Ethiopia
in which the French were supporting Menelik in order
to discomfort Italy. The Paris Temps immediately
denied what it called this “extraordinary” report, while
a despatch from the Paris correspondent of The Times
made it apparent that colonially minded sections of
French public opinion, though opposed to Italy as a
rival colonial power, were unwilling to side with the
invaded country because it was situated on the African

” No one here—I have not to take notice of this or
that scatter-brained person, or a few habitually malevo-
lent minds—wishes for the success of the Abyssinians
at the price of the discomfiture of a civilised nation,
from which it is quite possible to differ in aims and
opinions without being supposed to cherish any ill-will
when that nation is face to face with a brave but bar-
barous foe.”

Despite these words, the Paris correspondent averred
that there was a tendency in French circles to be “rather
kindly disposed ” toward ” the presence of serious diffi-
culties for Italy in Africa.” He was confident, how-
ever, that the “somewhat bitter complaints” of the
Italian politicians would “induce no revival of hostility”
against Italy in France.

The great Ethiopian victory necessarily changed the
entire picture. The Times, which until then had referred
to the Ethiopians as a “barbarous foe,” now chided
General Baratieri for imagining that he was confronted
with “undisciplined and ill-armed savages”; as we shall
see, a few days later, the newspaper declared that the
Ethiopians were “a civilised power both in the way
they made war and in the way they conducted their
diplomacy.” On March 6, it discussed the Italian politi-
cal crisis in the following words:
” Though the Crispi Government cannot be held
directly responsible for the Italian defeat at Adowa, it
was certain that General Baratieri’s blunder would bring
about its overthrow . . . Signor Crispi’s action appears
to have the approval of moderate men . . . but the
extreme Left, enraged by the curtailment of its oppor-
tunities for vituperation, has not been able to control its
temper either within the Chamber or outside. The
sitting seems to have closed in hopeless confusion, while
Radical Deputies placed themselves at the head of
excited mobs, marching through the streets with loud
cries for the impeachment of the fallen Ministers. It
is, happily, difficult for human nature to remain long at
fever-heat. The very violence of these demonstrations
tends to shorten their duration, so that after a certain
amount of shouting, gesticulating and anathematising,
we may expect the Piazza Colonna to regain its wonted
calm and the people to regain the rational consideration
of events.”

Reporting that the Marquis di Rudini had set up what
was to prove a merely interim administration the news-
paper alluded to other Italian problems:
” While the excitement in Rome arises naturally out
of the profound chagrin with which a sensitive people
receives the news of a great calamity, there are threats
of disturbance in other parts of Italy which are of a
more disquieting character. In Sicily there is chronic
disaffection, which, it will be remembered, was not long
ago suppressed or driven under by Signor Crispi. His
fall in circumstances so deplorable will undoubtedly
prove a great encouragement to all the disorderly fac-
tions … It must therefore be hoped by all friends
of Italy that, whether under the Marquis di Rudini or
another, a Government may be promptly formed cap-
able of steadily maintaining the authority of the laws.”
Despite the hopes of such “friends of Italy,” riots were
reported from Rome, Naples, Milan and the other prin-
cipal cities, and a telegram even reached London, report-
ing the assassination of ex-premier Crispi. On the
following day, March 7, it was learnt, however, that
this report was unfounded, a Times editorial declaring:
” the good name of the Italian people has not been dis-
honoured in its hour of trial by the crime of a maddened
mob.” The editorial went on to recall that “the Italians
of to-day” were “the descendants and the heirs of the
people whose Senate thanked an erring and defeated
General, after the crushing disaster of Cannae because
he had not despaired of the Republic.” The news-
paper would “not permit” itself “to discuss the possi-
bility that the (Savoyan) dynasty may be threatened”
as “a revolution in Italy would be unspeakably calami-
tous to the country itself and would menace the tran-
quillity of the whole of Europe.” (These arguments
were to be voiced again almost half a century later
when it was thought that action by the League of
Nations might possibly bring Mussolini’s invasion of
Ethiopia in 1935 to a halt). Advising the Italian people
not to display such “ingratitude” to King Humbert,
whose father had “played so noble a part in winning
and consolidating Italian unity and freedom,” The Times
advised a policy of caution and compromise as best cal-
culated to serve Italian interests in Africa:
” What is to be deprecated in the interests of Italy is
the hasty and inconsiderate adoption of a policy of
extremes. Some of her counsellors support the present
outcry of the populace for an immediate and uncon-
ditional retirement from Abyssinia. Others exhort her
at all costs to wipe out what is represented as a stain
upon her honour by renewing her military and financial
efforts on a greater scale than ever. Both courses, in
our opinion, are equally unwise. A complete and pre-
cipitate withdrawal would be surely and speedily
repented, and the responsibility for it would be urged
against the King’s Government at no distant date by
those whose interest it is to create troubles. On the
other hand, it is absurd to say that the honour of Italy
can only be secured by undertaking the conquest of
Abyssinia—a task which would not be hopefully
attempted in the existing state of public opinion. Her
true policy would appear to be that of withdrawing
from the mountain region where General Baratieri met
his ruin, as well as from Kassala, where she is threatened
by the Dervishes, and holding Massawah with the domi-
nating positions in the neighbourhood, as a pied-a-terre
from which to watch events. Thus the present might
be made safe while the future would not be com-
promised.” However “natural” the impulse “to pour in
men and munitions” to avenge the defeat, the political
horizon was “not so clear,” The Times added a few
days later, that Italy could not “afford to entangle herself
in adventures which there is no hope of carrying to a
successful issue except by means of exhausting expen-
diture and persevering effort.”

Meanwhile the Parliamentary crisis dragged on in
Italy and fuller news of the debacle of Adowa poured
in. On March 9, The Times had much to say on both
subjects. Discussing the battle, detailed news of which
had at last reached England, the newspaper seemed
almost to be fighting the engagement a second time; it
went to considerable length to point out Baratieri’s tacti-
cal errors. Being pro-Italian it repeatedly referred to
the Ethiopian army as “the Shoans,” though in fact the
principal provinces of Ethiopia were all included in the
armies at Adowa, and in particular the Tigre, which
the Italians had assiduously endeavoured to detach from
its loyalty to the Ethiopian Empire.

The Times’ account is as follows:
” The latest accounts place the Italian loss in the
battle of Adowa at a figure so high that we cannot but
hope there is a serious mistake somewhere. It is esti-
mated at no less than 7,000 white and 2,000 native
troops, though what proportion of the missing are killed
and how many are prisoners it is at present impossible
to say. As the total number of troops engaged in the
attack is given as 15,000 and cannot have been very
easily in excess of that number, the disaster has clearly
been one of quite exceptional magnitude. One-half the
forces, and, if the figures are correct, much more than
one-half seem to have disappeared. Italians will find
a melancholy consolation in the fact that their troops
fought with desperate gallantry. One division seems
to have been practically destroyed where it stood, after
inflicting enormous loss upon the enemy. It was prob-
ably owing to the severity of their punishment that the
Shoans abstained in a manner otherwise unaccountable
from a pursuit which might have rendered the catas-
trophe even more appalling. They have evidently now
followed up their victory for Adigrat is invested, and
the position of its garrison renders the whole situation
infinitely more difficult to deal with. Adigrat is not
upon the direct line of retreat, and General Baratieri
seems to have been too hard pressed either to turn aside
and avoid leaving the road to Asmara open to the
Abyssinians, or even to give the garrison timely notice
of its impending isolation. With 600 sick in hospital its
movements were seriously hampered, and the enemy
seem to have been within a few kilometres before the
commander was aware of his danger. From the tone
of his message it may be doubted whether he is even
now acquainted with the full extent of his disaster, for
he speaks cheerfully of having a month’s provisions. So
far as can be judged at the present there is little chance
of relief reaching Adigrat within a month in face of
what is plainly a forward movement on the part of the

” While the Italian troops displayed splendid valour,
their generals seem to have set at defiance all the elemen-
tary rules of warfare, and especially of mountain war-
fare. The Shoan army was posted upon an elevated
plateau to the number, it is said, of 80,000 men. General
Baratieri must have had abundant opportunities of learn-
ing of their equipment and the use they could make of it,
consequently he can hardly have imagined that he was
dealing with undisciplined and ill-armed savages. Yet
he behaved as if nothing were in front of him but a
rabble which would melt away on contact with disci-
plined troops. He attacked that plateau with three
divisions, marching through three valleys or ravines,
and therefore completely isolated and incapable of
mutual support. He neglected the elementary rule never
to engage your forces in a defile without occupying the
hills that command it. The rocky heights that effectively
separated his columns were taken possession of by the
Shoans with the utmost facility, because they practically
entered on the level. They could therefore flank each
of General Baratieri’s divisions, which struggling in the
narrow passes, had no room for the evolutions required
to offer even such defence as was possible against such
odds. To attack such an enemy at all on the front was
a serious blunder, but to attack in that particular manner
shows an almost incredible disregard of the rudimentary
principles of military science. The motives which
impelled General Baratieri to push forward regardless
of the danger to which he exposed his reinforcements
he knew to be on the way, and to make his ill-judged
attack without awaiting their arrival, almost baffle con-
jecture. It would, however, be well to await further
details before attributing his impatience purely to per-
sonal motives. Italy is not the only Power which on
political or religious pretexts interests herself in Abys-
sinia, and it is just conceivable that there were political
motives for pressing the unfortunate General to score
some success if possible, even at the serious risk of

Turning to the political situation in Italy, the news-
paper announced that Signor Saracco had failed in his
efforts to form a cabinet. It continued:
” On the immediate question of the policy to be pur-
sued in Abyssinia, the Cabinet will have to come to a
decision which, whatever its nature, will arouse opposi-
tion from one side or another. Each of the three pos-
sible policies has its advocates. With a large section of
the nation the whole Abyssinian enterprise is unpopular,
and nothing short of complete abandonment would
satisfy some critics. On the other hand, the feelings of
a high-spirited people are profoundly stirred by the
crushing reverse at Adowa, which to many will seem
to1 call for the most determined efforts to regain the
position that has been lost. Between these two is the
middle course which we have ventured to urge upon the
Italian Government that of rigorous concentration
within an area capable of being, defended without exces-
sive effort.”

Elaborating this proposal, the editorial concluded:
” Italy need not abandon any of her claims or renounce
any project that careful consideration may show to be
feasible. But in the meantime a defensive and waiting
policy seems to be clearly indicated alike by military
and political motives.”

The Times deeply regretted the fact that a European
army had been decisively defeated by a “native” force.
It now stressed the difference between the Ethiopians and
other inhabitants of Africa, then also confronted with
imperialist pressure. The Ethiopians, it declared, were a
“civilised power both in the way they made war and
in the way they conducted their diplomacy.” They
should, therefore, not be confused with “savage tribes
incapable of making a stand against a regular European

Discussing the outcome of the campaign The Times

” It was true that, in some respects, the military
disaster seems to be less crushing than was supposed.
The Abyssinian generals do not appear to have followed
up their victory with the vigour enjoined by all the
masters of the art of war. Hence the actual destruction
of the Italian forces is less complete than it might easily
have been and has been assumed to be.” Moreover,
considerable numbers of stragglers were turning up at
Italian headquarters. The newspaper continued:
” Unfortunately this is about the only gleam of con-
solation that can be found in the story of a most dis-
astrous enterprise. Though the men remain, the army
has sustained a deadly blow. Such a reverse, accom-
panied by heavy loss of artillery, cannot but prove
demoralising to any force and specially to one largely
composed of native levies. The more we learn about
the matter, the more serious does it become from this
point of view.”

All this merely served to strengthen the newspaper’s
conviction that it would be “unwise” for Italy to
attempt a policy of immediate revenge. It added:
” Were the Shoan army to make an energetic forward
movement, it would be difficult to assign limits to the
embarrassments of the Italian Government.”
Actually, as we shall see, the Emperor Menelik con-
fined his advance to the frontier existing at the time,
Ras Makonnen signed in Rome on Ethiopia’s behalf
the annexe to the Treaty of Uccialli, even though the
Italians by trickery had advanced that frontier beyond
the line they occupied when the Treaty was signed.
The attitude of The Times was thus one of friendship
for the aggressor, qualified only by a criticism of Italian
tactical mistakes. Thus it declared that the Italians had
” to do more than merely reconsider the plan of opera-
tions followed, under considerable pressure from home,
by General Baratieri. They have to revise their whole
policy towards Abyssinia, and if on mature consideration
they think it necessary to attempt the conquest of the
country, they must make up their minds to efforts very
much greater and more exhausting than they have
hitherto contemplated.”

Developing this train of thought the same editorial
concluded: “It is felt at this moment, in every European capital,
that the position in Italy is critical, and her action is
watched, if with varying sympathies, at all events with
unvarying closeness of attention. A mere African expe-
dition against nomad tribes would not affect her general
position or call forth all this anxiety. It is seen that
she is involved in an enterprise of a totally different kind,
which, if persevered in, cannot but profoundly affect all
her European relations. Her allies of the Triple Alli-
ance are exhibiting the most unmistakable symptoms of

Discussing the British attitude the newspaper was
brutally frank:
“The sympathies of this country cannot be thought
doubtful for an instant. Englishmen have a sincere and
enduring friendship for Italy, while English policy
regards her as an essential and most valuable factor in
the political equilibrium of Europe. Her aims in
Abyssinia we in this country regard without the faintest
tinge of jealousy, while her general well-being, political
and financial is earnestly desired.”

The fact that The Times admitted that Ethiopia was a
“civilised power,” both in her methods of warfare and
in her diplomacy, renders cynical the sympathy accorded
to Italy in her unprovoked and unscrupulous aggression
and the assertion that she “need not abandon her
claims,” but she should bide her time to strike again at
Ethiopian freedom at some favourable opportunity.
Italy’s claim to govern Ethiopia, we have seen, was
based on a discreditable trick—the inclusion in the
Italian version of the Treaty of Uccialli of words which
did not appear in the Ethiopian version, the only one
which the Emperor Menelik signed. British sympathy
for Italian aggression had, in fact, three motives: (1)
Hope that Italian expansion would prevent the French
from obtaining influence in the area in question; (2)
desire to win possible Italian support in the Mediter-
ranean; (3) fear less the defeat of a European Power
by an African nation would create unrest in British

When order was at last established in Italy The
Times devoted a leader to the situation on March 11,
wherein it expressed its thankfulness that the Italian
Government appeared to have adopted the course of
action it had itself been recommending. It declared:
“After the first outburst of national grief and disap-
pointment men are settling down to calm and earnest
consideration of the condition of affairs . . . Popular
demonstrations against the despatch of reinforcements
to Massawa have given place to a general conviction that,
whatever decision may be ultimately arrived at as to
Italian policy, it is indispensable that General Baldissera
should receive all the support he may deem necessary.
Those responsible, whether immediately or approxi-
mately, for the disaster at Adowa, will undoubtedly be
called to account in good time. But for the moment the
more pressing duty is to effect the relief of the garrisons
at Adigrat and Kassala. and to offer the Negus a front
sufficiently formidable to make Italy once more mistress
of her actions in Eritrea.

” The fact must be faced, although it is nowhere more
sincerely deplored than in England, that events in
Abyssinia constitute a grave embarrassment for Italy,
no matter in what way they may be dealt with . . .
Italy is most unfortunately involved in a difficulty which
cannot be immediately shaken oft’ by anything she can
do; and to that extent she is hampered in any other enter-
prise she may desire to pursue.”

The columns of The Times make interesting reading
throughout the first half of 1896. The St. Petersburg
Correspondent, for example, reported that some 12,000
roubles had been collected in Russia for an “Abyssinian
fund,” but that the Italian authorities were obstructing
a Russian Red Cross mission to Ethiopia which had been
despatched at a cost of 130,000 roubles. “The conse-
quence is that the nursing sisters, with part of the
baggage have been ordered back to Russia, and the rest
of the party are obliged to make a much longer and
very difficult journey though desert country with no
prospect of arriving at Menelik’s camp before the rainy
season . . . These painful details have been officially
announced at a special meeting of the Red Cross
Society.” Tsarist Russia was, in fact, the only European
power to champion Ethiopia at the time of Adowa.
The rulers of St. Petersburg had close religious ties with
the Ethiopian Church, were totally devoid of colonial
ambitions in Africa, and were, moreover, anxious to dis-
comfort the Italians, at that time the allies of Germany
and Austria, a rival European power group. In April,
The Times reported the despatch of a Russian scientific
mission to Ethiopia led by M. Dimitreff, which was
closely followed by General Shvedoff, ” several military
officers” and a priest. The newspaper felt the matter
deserved a leading article which ridiculed the fact that
the Russian Red Cross chaplain had brought with him
“20,000 small crosses of the Orthodox pattern,” com-
plained that the officers were seeking to stir the troubled
waters for sinister reasons and warned the statesmen of
the French Republic that the Imperialism of the Tsar
might be more dangerous to their Red Sea colony than
that of their Italian neighbours.” ” The sudden develop-
ment of Russian interest in the Abyssinians,” it declared,
“is a subject for the curiosity of Europe . . . Russia,
it is true, is not more noted in the annals of philan-
thropy for any unusual eagerness to succour than for
zeal in ministering to their spiritual necessities. As a
rule her works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual,
are rigidly restricted to members of the Slav race. But
as she has manifested lately an unexpected concern for
the religious welfare of the subjects of King Menelik,
it is quite natural that she should likewise display an
exceptional solicitude for his wounded soldiers . . .
Russian military officers have proved most effective
missionaries before now, and perhaps the Abyssinians
may harken to them for the present . . . Several of
of the Balkan States have enjoyed in an unexpected
fashion, the beneficence of the Tsar. Servia wanted
money, Montenegro wanted rifles, and the ruler of
Bulgaria had cravings to be recognised by the Powers
. . . The Russian adventure in the domains of King
Menelik seems rather worthy of Count Ignatiefl (the
leader of Russia’s ‘military party’ advocating the
manifest destiny of Holy Russia and general Slav ex-
pansion) … It is not, perhaps, very likely to succeed,
but if it does succeed nobody will have more cause to
regret its success than France. The Republic will find
the Tsar a much more unpleasant neighbour to Obok
than the Italians.”

In May, The Times reported the issue of an Italian
Government Green Book. Though the publication of
this volume had clearly been devised by the Italians to
blame their debacle on lack of support from Britain,
it also contained interesting diplomatic revelations. In
particular, it showed that after much discussion the
British Government had agreed on the eve of the battle
to allow the Italian army to land at the port of Zeila
and pass through Somali territory so as to divert
Ethiopian forces southwards for the defence of Harar.
The Times strongly criticised the publication of this
Green Book, declaring that it was calculated to stir up
anti-British feeling in Italy, and was so arranged as to
bring into “undue prominence” the points of difference
between the two powers so that “the substantial agree-
ment on essentials was in no small danger of being
ignored.” On the projected campaign against Harar it
” The point of most interest to ourselves in the docu-
ments is the account they give of the negotiations opened
up by Italy in respect of Zeila. The Italians, at one
period of the campaign, believed that by landing troops
at that port and marching them in the direction of Harar,
they could distract the attention of the Abyssinians and
divert a portion of their forces from the theatre of
operations further north. General Ferrero, the Italian
Ambassador in this country, was instructed to ask our
permission for the landing of the troops. The British
Government were quite willing and even anxious to
give the Italians any aid they rightly could give them,
but the objection to the proposal was obvious. It was
possible that the column operating from Zeila might be
repulsed and driven back upon Somaliland. Were we
to endanger a British possession from a desire to assist
a friendly people?”

There was, moreover, another diplomatic obstacle—
the opposition of France. The Times continues:
“France regarded the project with intense jealousy,
and we were naturally reluctant to give her any just
grounds of offence, either of a general kind or arising
from our agreement with her in regard to Harar itself.
These topics were discussed with the freedom usual in
diplomatic conversations of a confidential nature between
Lord Salisbury and General Ferrero, in London, and
between Sir Clare Ford and Baron Blanc, in Rome . . .
The project was received, and in January of the present
year Lord Salisbury assented to the passage of the
Italian troops through Zeila while making reservations
to spare any just susceptibilities on the part of France.
At various points in the negotiation of this extremely
difficult and complex affair, our Government were not
able at once to accept the view of the Italians, and on
one occasion especially Baron Blanc, in conversa-
tion with the British Ambassador, in Rome, signified his
annoyance in very plain terms. Exaggerated language
was employed, and in possible contingencies action was
spoken of which, doubtless, it was never intended to carry
out. These conversations have been published in the
Green Book, and it is difficult to suppose that they can
have been published with any object but one. That
object certainly was not to inform the Italian people as
to what the relations between Great Britain and Italy
really were at the close of the Crispi Administration.
Those relations were always friendly, as they are friendly
now. They depend on interests too deep and solid to
be affected by petty questions in remote parts of Africa.
Our friendship rests upon our common interests and
our common objects in the Mediterranean, and while
those remain it can never be shaken.”


The Battle

The campaign of Adowa may be said to have opened
between January 24 and 30, 1896, when the Emperor
Menelik, taking advantage of Ras Makonnen’s victories
at Amba Alagi and Makaile, proceeded to march forward
to Hausen and thence to Adowa. This advance out-
manoeuvred the Italian commander, General Baratieri,
whose communications with his base were threatened,
the Ethiopians having advanced nearer to Asmara than
he was himself. Accordingly, on February 1, the Italian
commander moved back the bulk of his army from
Edagahamus to Mai Gabeta, and two days later con-
centrated his forces between Mai Gabeta and Entichio.
Menelik’s armies had meanwhile taken up positions on
the hills to the north-east of Adowa, only some five miles
away. The two armies, which had once faced each
other looking north and south respectively, thus faced
east and west and were in close enough proximity to
open hostilities.

The Italians were, however, finding their communica-
tions difficult. The country was so mountainous that
transport animals moved slowly and had often to climb
dangerous precipices, which were rendered even more
dangerous by the activity of hostile forces in the rear.
Two local chiefs, Ras Sebath and Ras Agas Tafari, who
knew the country well and upon whom the Italians had
relied for help, had recently come out in support of
Menelik; Epizootic disease had broken out, with the
result that only about 20 per cent, of the local mules
were fit for service. Finally, Italian morale was dis-
integrating. Baratieri and members of his staff
quarrelled about the strategy of the campaign, while all
sorts of rumours circulated among officers and men. It
was said that agents from the Ethiopian side entered
the Italian camp with impunity, while the Italians, who
could not rely on the support of the native population,
often used spies who were, in fact, on Menelik’s side
and that Baratieri was the only person who believed
their reports. Italian field maps were, moreover, com-
pletely inaccurate.

Baratieri’s plan was to remain entrenched in his
position and wait there in the hope that Menelik would
attack or be forced to retire through lack of provisions.
The difficulty at this time was that although the
Ethiopians could marshal very large forces they had
no transport services to bring up supplies from the rear.
The huge army and its hordes of camp followers and
servants had, therefore, to rely on what could be pro-
cured locally; if this source failed it was necessary to
march into other areas. Baratieri, for his part, was
determined not to move from his camp, as to do so was
dangerous in view of the difficulty of the land and the
enmity of the populace. Baratieri, we may add, was
personally unpopular in the area; A. B. Wylde observes
that he had ” a very bad name at Adowa, owing to the
cruelties that took place when he first occupied the town.”

Ras Alula
Menelik, who had taken up his final position at Adowa
on January 21, was also determined to wait for his
opponent to make the first move. On January 23 he
had ordered Ras Mangesha, Ras Makonnen, Fitaurari
Gabre Ehu, Fitaurari Tekle and Likemekusas Adanou
to march northwards to Addi Koula, where they were
to await his arrival, but this force had been obliged to
return to base on account of shortage of water. On the
following day, January 24, the Italians had made a show
of attacking, but as soon as the Ethiopians moved out
to give battle they had returned to their fort, much to
the discontent of the Ethiopians, who complained that
the enemy was like a tortoise which retreated into its
shell whenever they approached. According to Gabre
Sellassie’s Chronicle of the Reign of Menelik the
Emperor had at first been provoked into ordering an
attack, but had been dissuaded by Ras Manglsha, of
the Tigre, who had reminded him of the losses incurred
by the Emperor Yohannes in attacking the fort of
Metemma. Menelik had therefore decided not to move
until the invader should launch his attack.

Accordingly, says Gabre Sellassie, the Ethiopian Com-
mand, decided, after long discussions on February 26
and 27, that they would not attack unless the Italians
themselves began operations; on the contrary, it was
agreed that if there was no sign of the enemy moving,
and their own men then searching for forage arrived in
time, the army would proceed into Hamasien, probably
on March 2. Such a move would once again have offered
an opportunity of threatening the Italian lines of com-
munication, but it was destined never to be attempted.
Meanwhile, indecision reigned in the Italian camp.

Though well entrenched, Baratieri was increasingly pre-
occupied with transport difficulties, and to make matters
worse received on February 25 Prime Minister Crispi’s
fateful telegram, which told him that his Government,
for political reasons, insisted on a victory and was
” ready for any sacrifice.” On February 28, however,
Baratieri ordered his army to move back, as his position
seemed to him unsatisfactory. It was the third time
the hesitating commander had given this order only to
countermand it. On this occasion some of the baggage
began to move, but again Baratieri changed his mind.
He asked for the advice of his four major-generals, who
advised him to reverse his order and, instead of retreat-
ing, to advance. Dabormida, doubtless having in mind
Crispi’s telegram, spoke for all when he said, ” Italy
would prefer the loss of two or three thousand men to a
retreat which would seem dishonourable.” Accordingly,
on February 29, the decisive command to attack was

According to Ethiopian tradition Baratieri made the
decision to attack because he had received intelligence
that Menelik was in no position to resist. It is asserted
that a certain Awalom, a villager of Entichio, had some
time earlier made contact with the Italians by supplying
them with eggs, chickens and other produce and had
been given 200 dollars by Baratieri to undertake
espionage work. Awalom, who, we are told, was a tall
man of soldierly bearing, was entirely loyal to the
Ethiopian cause and went immediately to Ras Mangesha
to report upon the confidence which had been placed
in him by the invader. It is related that Mangesha
interrogated him privately and being convinced of the
truth of his story dressed him as one of his own guards
so as to avoid drawing attention to the matter. He then
took him to Menelik and his generals. Ras Alula, who
was present, urged that his services should be used to
give false information to the enemy, and Menelik agreed
to this and handed Awalom a sum of money.

Ras Mengesha

This the latter refused, offering the Emperor instead the 200
dollars he had received from the Italians as his own
personal contribution to the war. Menelik laughingly
refused this and asked the patriot to fall in with Alula’s
plan. Awalom agreed with regret as he had hoped to
join Menelik’s armies as a soldier. He then returned to
Baratieri’s camp where he is said to have told the Italian
commander that it was necessary to attack at once as
the Ethiopian army was scattered and busily engaged
in searching for food. The statement that a large part
of the army was engaged in this work was of course
true and was confirmed by Baratieri’s spies. Corroboration
for these statements is to be found in the writings
of A. B. Wylde. Asserting that Entichio’ was altogether
the wrong base for an attack on Adowa, he declares, ” I
have every reason to know that the (Italian) Intelligence
Department was altogether at fault regarding the actual
number of Abyssinian soldiers present and did not give
them the credit for having the number of rifles or the
quantity of ammunition they possessed.”

Awalom, it is related, acted as guide to part of the
Italian army and led them towards the armies of Ras
Mangesha and Ras Alula. He then escaped from the
invading army and joined the Ethiopian forces so that
he could take part in the battle. He was later appointed
the Chika-Shum of his village and given exemption from
paying taxes. During the Italian occupation, which
began forty years later, some of his relatives fled to
Shire to avoid the invader’s wrath; others were exiled
to Nakura.

Ras Mikael
Baratieri’s new plan was to advance by night in three
columns, each made up of one brigade, with a fourth
brigade following as a reserve in the rear. The objective
was to occupy positions some nine miles forward and
only four miles from the Ethiopians, who, it was hoped,
would be obliged by this manoeuvre either to retreat or
to retaliate.

A. B. Wylde’s comments: ” General Baratieri thought
his attack would have been a complete surprise, and
as Signor Crispi, the Prime Minister, wanted to meet
his Parliament (which was discontented with the policy
in Eritrea) with a victory, no reward for General
Baratieri would have been too great had he succeeded,
and, like a gamester, he threw his dice for a big coup
and lost.”

The country to be traversed was, in fact, extremely
difficult and was inhabited by a hostile population. An
Italian officer describing the physical features of the land
subsequently referred to the “rugged slopes, precipitous
and broken, abounding in ravines, gorges and crevasses;
narrow and tortuous clefts in the hard rock; passes half-
closed, steep and very difficult, and granite summits that
rear themselves to the sky in the most strange forms and
dimensions. The surface seemed like a stormy sea
moved by the anger of God.”

The Italian force at this time numbered 20,000 well-
equipped men and 56 cannon*. This force, 17,700
strong (of which 10,596 were Italian and the remainder
Eritrean) took part in the operation; 1,466 Italians and
1,600 Eritreans were left behind in the camp. The
Ethiopians, on the other hand, were considerably more
numerous, but, generally speaking, less well equipped.
It is estimated that they comprised about 80,000 rifle-
men, 8,600 cavalry, 20,000 spearmen and 42 cannon.
According to Melli, these forces were divided among
the principal Ethiopian commanders as follows:

………………………………….. Riflles Horses Guns
Emperor Menelik ……………. 25,000 3,000 32
Empress Taitu ……………….. 3,000 600 4
King Tekla Haimanot ………. 5,000 — —
Ras Makonnen ………………. 15,000 — —
Ras Mangasha and Alula ….. 12,000 — 6
Ras Mangasha Atichim …….. 6,000 — —
Ras Mikael ……………………. 6,000 5,000 —
Ras Olie ……………………….. 8,000 — —
Totals ………………………….. 80,000 8,600 42

Battle Map

General Barartieri

The Ethiopian rifles were mainly breech-loaders
obtained from French, Belgian, Russian and other
travellers; their cannon were mainly well-nigh obsolete
models, though they included a number of Hotchkiss
guns which, according to A. B. Wyldet, were superior
to anything the Italians possessed and were to prove
of great value. The Italians, it must be noted, made no
use of cavalry, despite the fact that the British had found
them most useful during the Magdala campaign of
1867-8. Nor did they use heliographs during the battle,
though these were available.

Adowa itself, and the heights above it, were occupied
by Ras Makonnen and his Harari forces. To the right,
south of the city on a high irregular plateau with its
flanks protected by nearly perpendicular cliffs, up which
there were only a few sheep paths, lay the troops of
King Tekla Haimanot, with their cavalry thrown out
at the foot of the cliffs amongst water meadows. On
the left wing lay Ras Mikael with his Galla cavalry along
the southern and south-western slopes of Mount Selado.
Adjoining him on the north and north-west of that
mountain was Ras Mangasha and his Tigrean troops,
while on the extreme left, as far back as the heights of
Adi Abuna, lay the forces of Ras Alula. Menelik and
Empress Taitu made up the rear, being stationed near
the ruins of the Jesuit Monastery at Fremona; they were
encamped on rocky ground offering great opportunities
for stubborn resistance, while at the same time within
easy access of the rest of the army, so that if needed they
could easily move up in support of Ras Alula, Ras
Makonnen or Ras Mikael. Ras Woly was encamped
on low ground to the south-west of the Fremona spur,
immediately behind Ras Makonnen, whom he could
reinforce in less than half an hour, while Wagshum
Guangul lay behind Ras Makonnen and King Tekla
Haimanot, either of whom he could join if needed. The
Galla cavalry was encamped in some water meadows
eight miles off.

The Italian advance began by the light of the moon
at 9 p.m. on February 29, smoking being prohibited
so that the movement of troops should not be observed
by the unsuspecting Ethiopians. Dabormida’s brigade
was on the right, Arimondi’s in the centre, and
Albertone’s on the left. Ellena, with the reserve brigade,
followed Arimondi. From the outset, however, Baratieri
found it impossible to keep the three lines abreast.
Perhaps led astray by faulty intelligence he was himself
slow to take up a central position in the Memsah valley
and failed to place Ellena’s reserves in a position where
they could support either the flanks or centre. At about
2.30 a.m. on March 1, Albertone’s brigade crossed that
of Arimondi’s and caused him a delay of 1 1/2 hours.
At 3 he reached the hill named Kidane Meret on
Baratieri’s map (but not generally known by that name)
which he had been ordered to occupy and where he was
supposed to make contact with Arimondi. Not realising
that he had delayed the latter he waited impatiently for
half an hour and then began to think there was some
mistake about the location, and, on consulting his guides,
was told that Kidane Meret was some four and a-half
miles further off from Sauria. After another half-hour’s
wait he therefore set off at full pace in the hope of
catching up lost time, making for the true Kidane Meret
which overlooked Adowa and was only three miles from
Menelik’s camp. There he found himself isolated and
surrounded by Ethiopian troops, a fact which compelled
the other brigades to fight all day with their left flank
unguarded. When within 2 1/2 miles of his new objective
he halted in an effort to make contact with the force he
assumed to be on his right, but the advance guard failed
to receive his order and continued to march, with the
result that at 6 it found itself engaged all alone in fierce

Major-General Dabormida: “Italy would prefer the loss of two or three thousand men to a retreat which would seem dishonorouable

Meanwhile, the other units were moving according
to plan. Baratieri himself reached Rebbi Arienni at 6.
He heard some distant firing, but assumed it to be the
scrapping of an advance guard and that Albertone was
in his allotted position. Dabormida had reached a
position not far from his commander; Arimondi had
moved up the eastern slopes of the same high land; in
the rear Ellena’s reserve column came into sight. All
seemed well, except that Albertone’s levies, having
taken a wrong path, were nowhere to be seen.
The Italians had been counting on taking the Ethio-
pians by surprise. Baratieri had only just sent a letter
discussing peace terms, and it was only to be expected
that hostilities would be deferred until a reply had been
returned by Menelik or Ras Makonnen, who had been
obtain provisions, and that the camp is almost empty,
have decided to fall upon you by surprise.”
According to Gabre Sellassie, it was from Kagnaz-
match Teffesse that Menelik was first warned of the
surprise attack. ” Do you really believe the enemy is
going to attack and that this is not merely another trick
to force me again to rally uselessly for battle?” asked
the Emperor. ” To-day it is certain,” Teffesse replied.
Orders were immediately given to prepare for battle,
but it was not, says A. B. Wylde, until between 9 a.m.
and 10 p.m. that the main Ethiopian force could be
brought into action. Two-thirds of the army, Gabre
Sellassie confirms, were not in the camp; part were
foraging for food and part attending a service at the
Church of Sion.

Major-General Arimondi
The first exchange of shots took place at about 6 a.m.,
when, as we have seen, Albertone’s isolated force found
itself in conflict with Ethiopian troops. The chronicler
quaintly adds that their noise “resembled the rain of
Hamle, which falls without stopping.” At 6.45, Dabor-
mida was ordered to occupy the spur of Belah which
was more or less in the direction of the gunfire, and
would have supported Albertone if he had in fact been
where he was assumed to be. Unfortunately for Dabor-
mida, instead of inclining to the left he inclined to the
right and, therefore, instead of getting any nearer to
the missing general, proceeded in a parallel line to him.
Consequently, there was a 2 1/2 mile gap of mountainous
country between them which the Ethiopians promptly

Baratieri, stationed on Rebbi Arienni, was meanwhile
giving his orders on the altogether incorrect assumption
that his forces were stationed in the positions he had
ordered. At 8.15 he took up a stand on Mount Eshaho,
and to his surprise saw that Albertone was seriously
engaged. At 9, however, he received two notes from
Albertone written at 7.30 and 8.15 respectively, stating
that all was more or less well but that reinforcements
would be acceptable. After reading these messages the
commander galloped to Mount Rajo, where he saw to
his dismay a routed army streaming back from Mount
Rajo to Sauria. He sent officers in vain to stem the
rout. The Ethiopians, declared Major Gommera, an
eye-witness, had “manoeuvred with great skill” and
finally charged with “a hurricane of 25,000 men”; the
Italians fought back, “but cold, inexorable as death, a
storm of lead arrested them.”

On the Ethiopian side morale was high. The Empress
Taitu, in particular, showed great fortitude and, in the
words of the chronicler, “ceased to be a mere woman
and appeared as a valiant soldier.” When she saw the
troops waver she cried out: “Courage, the victory is ours!

Major-General Galliano
Baratieri, though now fully aware of the gravity of his
position, was still wholly ignorant of the true state of
affairs, and was without contact with units not in his
own immediate vicinity. At 9.15 he sent a note to
Dabormida, ordering him to cover Albertone’s retire-
ment, but the note was not delivered as the messenger
met one from Dabormida bringing word that “he was
holding out his hand to Albertone,” and therefore
thought it was useless to deliver the order. At 9.30 he
ordered Albertone to retreat, but the messenger failed
to get through, and eventually learned that Albertone
had been killed and that his army was in full retreat.
At 9.45 he sent forth a messenger to ascertain the where-
abouts of Dabormida, but only received confused intelli-
gence which turned out in fact to be altogether incorrect.
At 10, and again at 10.15, he sent orders to Dabormida
to move forward to support Albertone, but Dabormida
was not to be found as he had already begun an advance
which was to take him into the Mariam Shavita valley,
where he was killed.

Baratieri now reinforced his left flank in the belief
that the Spur of Belah, upon which everything depended,
was still held by Dabormida, though in fact it was no
longer occupied by any troops at all, Dabormida being
four miles to the west. Consequently Ethiopian troops
poured in, sweeping past Arimondi’s right and cutting
his line of retreat. The Ethiopians pursuing the routed
Italians were, moreover, able to penetrate within rifle
range as the Italians were unable to fire on them for fear
of hitting their own stragglers.

Major-General Arimondi
The victorious Ethiopians south of Mount Belah now
attacked the central forces of Arimondi; Galliano’s
Eritrean troops were accordingly brought up from reserve
and placed on the southern slopes of Mount Rajo. At
about this time, 10.15, another Ethiopian force swept
over the Hill and Spur of Belah from the east, thereby
cutting Baratieri completely from Dabormida and
threatening Arimondi, this time from the right. At 10.30
Galliano’s Eritrean force deserted to the Ethiopians,
which enabled Menelik’s forces to sweep forward in that
sector, thus almost completely surrounding the Italians.
Since both his flanks were now turned Baratieri
determined on a general retirement, which he hoped to
effect under cover of Dabormida’s force, then fighting
hopelessly in the Mariam Shavita valley. By this time,
however, complete confusion reigned in the Italian army.
The retreat inexorably turned into a rout as repeated
efforts to hold the Ethiopian forces proved abortive.
Italian morale collapsed as the exhausted troops
struggled back. “They were almost unconscious of their
surroundings,” says Baratieri, “and careless of every-
thing except their individual defence. The officers had
lost authority over the soldiers, who looked in a
bewildered and stupefied manner at those who gave an
order or attempted to halt them.” The flight continued
into the dark, the Ethiopians pursuing their foes as far
as the river Mareb. During the night many Italians,
including the commander himself, lost their way. “A
terrible destiny,” declared Baratieri, “weighed on my
head; it was the third time that I had lost my way during
the retreat, and my heart was breaking at the long hours
during which it had been impossible to give my orders
or to receive information.”

Major-General Albertone
In chronicling this series of mistakes and mishaps one
is entitled to wonder what would have been the course
of events if the Italians had employed other tactics. A. B.
Wylde’s reply to this question is as follows: “The opinion
of Ras Alula and many of the Abyssinian generals was
that it made very little difference what took place the
moment the Italians made their fatal advance, and if they
had made the surprise complete and lined the position,
they would still have been beaten and crushed … I
perfectly agree with their opinion, and the loss to both
sides would then have been too terrible to contemplate.”
As the survivors of the routed army retreated across
the Eritrean frontier panic spread among the entire
Italian population. Italian agricultural colonists aban-
doned their recently acquired lands and fled to Asmara,
and thence to Massawa. The remnants of the army
found their way to the fortresses of Adi Ugri, Asmara,
Adi Caieh and the Hadras pass. On March 6, Baratieri
learnt that even before the battle the Italian Government
had decided upon his dismissal; accordingly on that day
he handed over to his successor, Baldissera. For a week
or so it appeared that Menelik would follow up his
victory by advancing into Eritrea; on March 12 he
encamped at Feres Mai, an advanced post which seemed
to indicate an intention of moving on Gura. On March
20, however, to the great relief of the Italians, he ordered
his troops to retire southwards. Afterwards, to a priest
of Serae (on the way to Gura), he is reported to have
said: “We were very near to your country and intended
to go there. I was not able to do so—first of all because
we were short of water; and secondly, because many new
enemies had arrived, and, as you know, I do not love
spilling blood.”

“The only thing that prevented King Menelik from
following up his complete victory,” confirms A. B.
Wylde, “was want of provisions to feed his army.”
Had Ras Alulu been allowed to advance with his
army, strengthened by part of Ras Mangesha’s force,
“there is no doubt,” adds A. B. Wylde, “the whole of the
Hamasien plateau and the Bogos province, with the
exception of the fortified positions of Adi Ugri, Asmara
and Keren, would have again fallen into the hands of
the Abyssinians . . . the garrisons of these places were
not numerous enough to take the offensive in the open,
and it would only have been a question of time how long
their provisions held out before they would have to
capitulate, as it was hardly possible for reinforcements
to have arrived from Italy in time to relieve them. The
Italian fores, immediately after the battle, was a great
deal too demoralised to offer any effective resistance.”
At the battle of Adowa, the Italians lost, according to
their own figures, 2,918 white troops killed, 954 missing,
470 wounded, and 1,865 prisoners; as well as 2,261
Askaris killed and 958 wounded. These losses repre-
sented a large proportion of the total force (10,598
Italians and 7,100 Askaris). The debacle was, however,
far greater than the figures suggest, for the survivors
were completely demoralised. All three major-generals
who had taken part in the campaign, Albertone,
Arimondi and Dabormida, were killed, and Baratieri’s
army had ceased to exist as a fighting unit. Among the
booty was the entire Italian artillery, some sixty-five
cannon, 11,000 rifles and most of the transport. The
Ethiopians had lost 5,000 to 6,000 killed and 8,000 badly
wounded; among the dead were numbered Kegnazmatch
Abeina, Kegnazmatch Tafesse, Dejazmatch Machacha,
Fitauraris Gabrel Ehu, Hailu and Tadai, and Dejazmatch
Besheer, who died of his wounds on the following day.


Diplomatic Relations with Europe, 1861-1896

Emperor Menelik II, from a painting of 1896

The first (excluding the interesting plan of the Belgian, Eduard
Blondeel) colonial threat to Ethiopia’s age-old
independence in modern times came from the French
dictator Napoleon III, who had seized power in 1852
and was destined to remain in sole charge of his country’s
foreign policy till the debacle of the Franco-Prussian
war of 1870. Napoleon the Little, as he was called,
hoped to obtain a foothold on the northern coast of
Ethiopia through the influence of the French Consul
and two Italian priests, Giuseppe Sapeto and Monsignor
De Jacobis, then in bitter conflict with their
Protestant rivals who themselves had begun activities
in the country in 1829. The Ethiopian attitude can be
seen by the reaction of the head of the Ethiopian Church,
Abuna Salama, who, when asked by a British Consul to
support tolerance for all Christian sects, replied that
tolerance towards the Roman Catholic Mission had been
unfortunate; the Mission, he said, had ” introduced
Frenchmen and firearms ” in support of a rebel called
Negussie, who was then waging war against the Imperial
forces. The Abuna further complained that ” the
country was thrown into disorder by large bands of
marauders, who adopted the Roman Catholic cause in
the hope of finding their profit in the future collision of
the two faiths.”

As soon as his rebellion was under way Negussie
offered the Bay of Adulis and the island of Dissee to
Napoleon III on condition that French troops be sup-
plied to assist his revolt. However, Negussie was
defeated in 1861 before French intervention could
materialise, though a French warship spent several
months cruising along the coast in the following year.
M. Schaefer, first Oriental interpreter to Napoleon III,
selected the harbour of Obok, with the plain extending
from Ras Ali to Ras Dumeira, as a suitable area for
French settlement. The transaction was then carried
out by a French payment of 10,000 Maria Theresa
dollars to the chief of a local village, who disappeared
forthwith. His successor tried in vain to deny the
validity of the deal; France had obtained the nucleus of
her future Somali Colony.

The defeat of the French by Prussia and the fall of
Napoleon in 1870 put an end to French intrigues. The
way lay open for Italy, especially after the cutting of
the Suez Canal, which was formally opened on Novem-
ber 16, 1869. Father Sapeto, who as early as 1859 had
been instrumental in arranging a ” commercial treaty ”
between Negussie and the King of Piedmont, which
recognised the rebel as “King of Ethiopia,” now suc-
ceeded in purchasing a portion of land in the Bay of
Assab for the Italian Rubattino Company in 1869,
ostensibly as a coaling station. The sale was followed
by the arrival of Italian gunboats, symbolically enough
on the very day of the opening of the Canal. Formal
Italian sovereignty was not, however, proclaimed until
1882, when Italy lost Tunisia to France, and deter-
mined to found a large-scale empire in East Africa.
In the intervening years the area of Italian control on
the Red Sea was being continually extended by armed
raids and bribes to local chiefs.

The rise of the Sudanese Mahdi in 1883 produced an
unsettled situation in the whole of North-East Africa,
which the Italians hoped to turn to their advantage.
The defeat by the Mahdi of 10,000 Egyptian troops
under Hicks Pasha in November rendered it essential
for Britain to withdraw her garrison and evacuate
European residents of towns in imminent danger of
capture. The British Government accordingly persuaded
the Ethiopian Emperor Yohannes IV to give assistance
on the understanding that the frontier region of Bogos,
which had recently been occupied by the Egyptians,
would be restored to Ethiopia. The Anglo-Ethiopian
agreement of June 3, 1884, signed on behalf of the
British Government by Rear-Admiral Sir William
Hewett, also guaranteed free transit for Ethiopian goods
” under British protection” through the port of
Massawa. In accordance with this treaty, Ras Aloula,
Governor of Hamasien, was despatched to the Sudan,
where he successfully relieved six Egyptian garrisons
according to plan, but not without considerable losses,
Aloula himself being wounded.

The British Government, however, had meanwhile
decided that it would be convenient to curb French
expansion in Africa by giving Italy a free hand in East
Africa. Thus, while Ras Aloula was occupied on the
western frontier the British Cabinet secretly agreed to
an Italian occupation of Massawa. Italian Rear-
Admiral Caimi entered the port on February 3, 1885,
less than a year after the Anglo-Ethiopian agreement
which had pledged British protection for Ethiopian
trade through the port. The Italian colonel Saletta
occupied the port on February 5, the day that Khartoum
fell to the Dervishes. ” Look at our behaviour to King
Yohannes from any point of view,” wrote A. B. Wylde,
ex-British Vice-Consul for the Red Sea area, “it will not
show one ray of honesty. To my mind it is one of the
worst bits of business out of the many we have been
guilty of in Africa, and no wonder our position diplo-
matically is such a bad one with the rulers of the country
at present. England made use of King Yohannes as long
as he was of any service, and then- threw him over to the
tender mercies of Italy, who went to Massawa under our
auspices with the intention of taking territory that
belonged to our ally, and allowed them to break all the
promises England had solemnly made to King Yohannes
after he had faithfully carried out his part of the agree-
ment. The fact is not known to the British public, and
I wish it was not true for our credit’s sake.”

Such politics were perhaps not surprising in 1885, the
year of the Berlin conference on the partition of Africa.
Italian colonial ambitions were now aroused. Caimi had
promised on landing at Massawa that he would place
no obstacle on trade, but professions of friendship soon
rang hollow. When the Italians felt strong enough they
seized other ports on the coast and stopped Ethiopian
trade. Their forces crossed the neutral area that had
been set up to avoid conflict, and climbed the mountains
where they occupied and fortified Sahati and Wia. Ras
Aloula warned them that they were infringing the treaty
of 1884 and that further troop movements would be
considered a hostile act. The Italians replied by
strengthening the fortifications they had built and by
sending more troops, which were intercepted and
defeated by Ras Aloula at Dogali in January, 1886,
whereupon the Italians hastily evacuated Sahati and Wia
in fear of being trapped. In Rome, the Italian Govern-
ment of Signor Depretis fell and Signor Crispi became
Foreign Minister. He began careful preparations for
the inevitable ” war of revenge,” for which the Italian
Parliament voted him a budget of 20 million lire.
While the Italian Government threatened war, the
British despatched a Mission, under G. H. Portal, to
persuade Ethiopia to surrender to the Italians the terri-
tory which the 1884 treaty had recently restored to
her. When the Emperor heard these proposals, he
replied: ” I can do nothing with all this. By the treaty
made by Admiral Hewett, all the ‘ country evacuated
by the Egyptians’ on my frontier was ceded to me at
the instigation of England, and now you come to ask
me to give it up again.”

Faced with the threat of war by Italy, the Emperor
strengthened the northern defences by sending thither
the garrison stationed at Gallabat. Finding the frontier
unguarded, the Dervishes broke into Ethiopia at that
point. Emperor Yohannes hastened to Gallabat to repel
them, but at the close of a victorious battle he was
mortally wounded by the bullet of a sniper on
March 10, 1889.

Yohannes was succeeded by his son-in-law, Menelik,
King of Shoa, who was destined to play a decisive role
in the development and modernisation of his country.
The Italians at first offered him the hand of friendship,
promising assistance in economic development and
protection against a possible renewal of Egyptian
aggression. Accordingly, a Treaty of Perpetual Peace
and Friendship was signed on May 2, 1889, and ratified
on September 29 of the same year. Article XVII pro-
vided that Emperor Menelik should have the power to
avail himself of the services of the Italian, authorities
for any communications he might wish to have for-
warded to other Governments. A similar article had
already been included in a treaty between Menelik and
the King of Italy in respect of the Consular authority
in the newly-established Italian colony of Assab. The
proviso of that treaty, as well as that of the treaty of
1889, in the Amharic text, was permissive and in no
way obligatory. The Italian version, which had been
previously drafted in Rome and was not, in fact, signed
by both parties, made it obligatory for the Emperor to
conduct all his transactions with other Powers through
the Italian Government. On this ground the Italians
claimed they had established a protectorate over
Ethiopia and were entitled to take control of Ethiopian
affairs. Before making their claim on October 11, 1889,
however, they waited until an additional convention had
been concluded with Ethiopia on October 1, 1889. This
convention provided that the boundaries of Italian
possessions on the Red Sea coast should be ” rectified ”
on the basis of ” the actual state of possession ” at the
time, a device which enabled Italy to annex Asmara,
Keren, and a sizable strip of territory before the addi-
tional convention was finally ratified by Menelik on
February 25, 1890. “The advance of the Italians was
unopposed,” writes A. B. Wylde, ” and once they had
made good their foothold on the upper plateau and
fortified themselves, no Abyssinian force could drive
them out.” Adowa itself had been occupied in January,

Italy’s claim to a protectorate over Ethiopia was
made in accordance with the Berlin convention, which
provided ” in the Name of Almighty God ” that any
European Power which ” takes possession of a tract of
land on the African continent” or ” assumes a pro-
tectorate there ” had merely to notify the other Powers
to enable them, if need be, ” to make good any claims
of their own.” King Umberto of Italy wrote to Menelik
calling down the blessing of Heaven upon the Ethiopian
sovereign, whose Empire was now faced by Italian
colonisation to the south as well as north, for in May,
1889, the Somali Sultans of the Mijertain and Oppia had
been persuaded to accept Italian protection, with the
result that the Italians immediately claimed the Benadir,
their protectorate over the area being recognised by
England and Germany in a treaty of July 1. On
September 27, 1890, Menelik officially brushed aside the
Italian claims to his country, declaring, “Ethiopia does
not require the protection of anyone; Ethiopia stretches
out her hands to God.”

In a circular letter to the Powers, he added:
” I have no intention of being an indifferent spectator
if far-distant Powers make their appearance with the
idea of dividing Africa … As the Almighty has pro-
tected Ethiopia to this day, I am confident He will
strengthen and protect it in the future.”

The Italian claim to “protect” the Ethiopian “hinter-
land” was opposed by France with whose interests it
conflicted, but Germany and Britain were both favour-
able to annexation; Germany wished to keep Italy in the
Triple Alliance with herself and Austria, Britain desired
to use Italy as an obstacle to French ambitions for a
great North African empire. The sovereigns of both
countries readily recognised the Italian interpretation of
the treaty of Uccialli; Menelik subsequently declared that
Queen Victoria’s letter on the subject was courteous
while that of the Kaiser was insulting. J. Scott Keltie,
assistant secretary of the Royal Geographical Society in
London, typified the British attitude in a contemporary
geography textbook in which he recognised an Italian
protectorate over Ethiopia, but advised Italy that the
“wisest course” was to pursue a cautious policy: “Italy’s
share is allotted to her: if she only acts on her own
maxim—’he who goes gently, goes safely and he who
goes safely goes far’—and if not inveigled into any ex-
tensive military occupations, she may in time reap some
advantage from her 600,000 square miles of Africa.”
The Italians were now coveting Kassala to the west
of their colony, but since expansion in this area con-
flicted with British ambitions in the Sudan, the British
objected to anything more than a temporary Italian
occupation of the area. The German Kaiser’s comment
was: “once they are in, the Italians can do as the British
do with the occupation of Egypt, which is also ‘tem-
porary.’ ”

Italo-Ethiopian negotiations were meanwhile still in
progress. The Italian negotiator, Artonelli, declared to
Menelik in an audience at which Empress Taitu was
present, that “Italy cannot notify the other Powers that
she was mistaken in Article XVII, because she must
maintain her dignity.” Taitu replied: “We also have
made known to the Powers that the said Article, as it
is written in our language, has another meaning. As
you, we also ought to respect our dignity. You wish
Ethiopia to be represented before the other Powers as
your protectorate, but this shall never be.”

Ethiopia managed at this time to import a small quan-
tity of arms which were readily supplied by France and
Russia, but the Brussels Act of July 2, 1890, was used
by the other great powers to restrict the sale of arms
to Ethiopia as to other areas of Africa on the excuse
that they might be used to further the slave trade.
The British Government next entered into three pro-
tocols with Italy in March and April, 1891, and May,
1894, whereby the boundaries between British colonies
and the alleged Italian protectorate were defined. As
soon as the last of these protocols was signed Ethiopia
ceased to exist on British maps, being designated in Sir
Edward Hertslet’s Map of Africa by Treaty as “Italian
Abyssinia.” Signor Crispi, who was now the Italian
Prime Minister, was convinced that the moment had
arrived to establish Italian rule in Ethiopia by force of
arms. After long negotiations Menelik formally denoun-
ced the whole treaty of Uccialli on February 12, 1893,
notifying the powers that he was not looking for any
European protector. The French gave Menelik their
moral support and the Russians sent a number of
scientific and religious missions which, it was thought,
had other interests beside the specialised matters they
claimed to study. The Italians, for their part, sought to
obtain active support from their German and Austrian
allies, by threatening to desert them. The Italian Am-
bassador in Vienna declared that “Italy could have
Abyssinia, Tripoli, and Heaven knows what else, if only
she would desert the Triple Alliance.”

Open hostilities between Menelik and Italy may be
dated from 1894 when it became evident to the Emperor
that no modus vivendi with the invader was possible.
Ras Mangasha reported from the Tigre that the Italians
refused to withdraw from Adowa until Menelik accepted
their interpretation of the Treaty of Uccialli. Soon after-
wards the Ras was defeated by General Baratieri, the
Italian Governor of Eritrea, in two hard-fought battles
at Coatit and Senafe between January 13 and 15, 1895.
Baratieri had already made a name for himself, by order-
ing the arrest of six Eritrean villagers who were then
placed back to front and executed by firing a single
bullet through them at point blank range to demonstrate
to their companions the power of modern weapons.
After the rains of 1895 he seized Adowa, advanced into
Tembien and Enderta provinces and occupied Makalle.
By the end of the year the Italians were therefore in con-
trol of almost the whole of the Tigre.

Ras Makonnen
In December, however, Ras Makonnen, (Menelik’s
cousin and father of Emperor Haile Sellassie) arrived from Harar province, and, to the surprise
of the invader, defeated him very decisively at Amba
Alagi on December 2. The routed Italians now retreated
on Makalle, which Ras Makonnen besieged from
December 8 until January 2 of the following year when
the garrison capitulated. Meanwhile the rest of the
Italian forces were obliged to abandon Adowa and
fall back on Adigrat. The Makalle garrison was allowed
to retire to Italian territory taking their arms with them
on the understanding that the troops would not again
be used against Ethiopia, a promise which was later

Early in 1896 the Italians, who had withdrawn over
the Mareb, received strong reinforcements which enab-
led them to take up positions along a line from Adigrat
via Entichio to Adi Quala. It was here that the campaign
of Adowa opened.

On the Ethiopian side Menelik commanded an army
of almost 120,000 men composed of patriots drawn from
all provinces. Baratieri had at about this time received
from the Italian Foreign Minister, Baron Blanc, a copy
of the peace terms which he was supposed to submit to
the Ethiopians on the assumption of an Italian victory:
“That if a Negus Nagasti continued to exist, though the
Government admitted they would prefer his elimination
… he and his Rases were to acknowledge Italian rule as
far as Lake Aschangi and the Takazze river. All Ethio-
pia was to be an Italian protectorate, and was to main-
tain such troops only as might be agreed by Italy. No
concessions of land, commerce, industries, railways, etc.
were to be granted to subjects of any foreign nation ex-
cept by permission of Italy, who was to keep a Resident
at the capital, invested with full civil and criminal juris-
diction over all foreigners … the customs and duties
would in future be regulated by her, the Abyssinian
money coined at her mints, and no loans were to be
contracted without her authorization; she would not be
responsible for any previous debt of the Negus. She
undertook, however, to develop the commerce, agricul-
ture and education, etc, of Abyssinia and all that could
contribute to the economic and civil’ welfare of that
country. The Italians were to have the power of buying
land. All internal disputes were to be referred to the
Government at Rome.” Such far reaching demands could
only have been imposed if Italy were victorious.
Baron Blanc accordingly telegraphed on January 28,
that “in the present condition of our military operations,
and until Italy has won a victory over the enemy,
the government of the King does not see that it can
enter on serious negotiations, or obtain useful conditions
which will assure our position in Ethiopia for the

By this time Menelik had moved forward to meet the
invader in the neighbourhood of Adowa. This move,
commented General Luzeux, “denotes in the mind of the
sovereign a real understanding of the affairs of war.”
Though inferior in armament the Ethiopian army
was resolute and determined to display bravery in
action. Months of unsuccessful skirmishing and the
breakdown of communications had, on the other hand,
weakened Italian morale. In his impatience to announce
a victory for the Italian general election, Crispi, the
Italian Prime Minister telegraphed: “This is a military
phthisis not a war; small skirmishes in which we
are always facing the enemy with inferior numbers;
a waste of heroism, without any corresponding success.
I have no advice to give you because I am not on the
spot, but it is clear to me that there is no fundamental
plan in this campaign, and I should like one to be formu-
lated. We are ready for any sacrifice in order to save the
honour of the army and the prestige of the monarchy.”



The year 1896 was a significant date both in the
history of Ethiopia and in the world. By their historic
victory at Adowa the Ethiopian troops showed that their
age-old Empire could resist the military impact of nine-
teenth century European imperialism and made it pos-
sible for their Emperor Menelik to begin the modernisa-
tion of the country—a process which was to be con-
tinued and brought to greater fruition by the Emperor
Haile Sellassie. The battle of Adowa ensured in a word
that independent Ethiopia would remain on the map of
Africa, while European imperialism would itself disinte-
grate. As soon as the result of the Battle was announced,
a Parisian newspaper declared, as we shall see, that its
outcome had rendered the Berlin agreement of 1885 for
the partition of Africa as obsolete as the Papal Bull of
Pope Alexander VI for the division of the unknown
world between Portugal and Spain; eight years later an
English writer speculated whether the battle did not
“herald the rise of a new power in Africa” and mark
“the first revolt of the Dark Continent against domineer-
ing Europe.”

1896 was a significant date in world history. It was a
year in which the imperialist advance in Africa suffered
its first major reverses. Besides the Ethiopian victory at
Adowa the year saw great Mahdist victories
in the Sudan, the Matabele rebellion, and the debacle of
the Jamieson raid in South Africa. It was not without
significance that Captain F. D. Lugard, the future creator
of British rule in Uganda, should a few years earlier have
volunteered to fight in the Italian army of invasion, or
that Lord Cranworth, one of the first Kenya settlers,
should have called the Battle of Adowa the “greatest
crime” of the century and bemoaned the fact that pros-
pective European settlers were deprived of the beautiful
countryside around Addis Ababa which he declared the
most fertile of all East Africa.

In examining the historical evidence one is filled with
wonder at the fortune of the ancient Ethiopian empire
which maintained its freedom in the face of seemingly
overwhelming dangers. Ethiopia had her mountain fort-
resses, her heroic troops, and her able military organisa-
tion, but these factors were providentially strengthened by
a series of largely fortuitous circumstances. Ethiopia was
geographically a centre of dissension between the rival
colonial powers. Situated at the point where the British
dream of an “all red” line from the Cape to Cairo clash-
ed with the French dream of a French domination from
Jibuti to Dakar, Menelik found himself in a curious dip-
lomatic no man’s land in which the spheres of interest
of the colonial powers overlapped and in which the
European enemy he ultimately had to fight was the
weakest of the colonial powers even if it sought to make
up for its weakness by craft and ferocity. Ethiopia was
fortunate, too, in that the Italians attacked in 1896
before they had fully modernised their forces and that
they acted with such abruptness that they could not avail
themselves of the British Government’s promise to open
the Somali port of Zeila for a diversionist attack on

Finally there is the problem of Menelik’s decision not
to follow up his victory at Adowa by pushing forward to
the coast. This decision which allowed the Italians to
remain in Eritrea, led inevitably, it is true, to the Italian
invasion of 1935. On the other hand, a perusal of the
pages which follow may suggest that a decision to con-
tinue the war after Adowa might well have provoked
the Italians to attempt an all-out war of revenge. In such
circumstances British intervention on behalf of Italy
would by no means have been improbable, though the
strength of Mahdism in the Sudan was undoubtedly an
important factor militating against such British aid.
Yet even though their defeat in 1896 brought an end
to immediate attempts at conquering Ethiopia, the
Italians soon returned to the imperialist path, one of
Mussolini’s slogans four decades later being the need to
avenge ” the shame ” of Adowa. Marshal Badoglio, it
is interesting to observe, had himself taken part in the
campaign of 1896 though not actually present at the
famous battle.

The chapters which follow are devoted to the events of
1896, to their diplomatic causes and effects, to the plan
of campaign, to the organisation of the opposing armies
and to the attitude of the principal powers.
We are greatly indebted to Ato Hailab Tedla for
information on the counter-intelligence work of the
Ethiopian patriot Awalom whose role has thus far been
ignored in most histories of the battle.
In remembering the heroism of Menelik’s armies who preserved
the national independence of their country we do not
forget those who gave their lives at Adowa in 1896; the price
Ethiopia paid in dead may be gathered by the description of
Augustus B. Wylde, late British consul for the Red Sea,
which is included in this issue.

November, 1875
March, 1876
September, 1885
January, 1887
Autumn, 1887
August, 1888
March, 1889
January, 1895
Amba Alagi
December, 1895
Dec, 1895 – Jan., 1896
March, 1896


Malaku E. Bayen: Ethiopian Emissary to Black America

By William R. Scott
Although it is not generally known, a considerable amount of the public interest, sympathy, and condemna- tion generated throughout the world by Italy’s blatant act of aggression against Ethiopia in October 1935 emanated from black communities in the United States. As the distinguished black historian, John Hope Frank- lin, has indicated, " When Italy invaded Ethiopia, they (Afro-Americans) protested with all the means at their command. Almost overnight even the most provincial among the American Negroes became international- minded. Ethiopia was (regarded as) a Negro nation, and its destruction would symbolise the final victory of the white man over the Negro."1

While widespread, Afro-American interest in the Italo-Ethiopian War was concentrated in Harlem, New York, longtime intellectual and cultural centre of Black America. It was mainly there that Afro-Americans, sometimes in conjunction with liberal and radical whites, organised dozens of groups designed to raise both moral and material assistance for the Haile Selassie government in the United States. Motivated largely by their racial identification with the Ethiopians and the long-standing symbolic importance of that country in the black American community, these pro-Ethiopian socie- ties had succeeded by the winter of 1935 in mobilising significant levels of moral, if not monetary, support for the Ethiopian cause.2

The sad truth of the matter was that while there were substantial numbers of sympathetic Afro-Americans quite willing to contribute financially to the Ethiopian war effort, there were exceedingly few at the time who possessed the means to do so. The Great Depression of the 1930’s made it inordinately difficult, indeed impos- sible in perhaps most instances for an aroused but im- poverished Afro-American people to assist materially the beleaguered Ethiopians. Nevertheless, there is evidence that, despite the increased economic constraints imposed upon them by heightened poverty, many Afro- Americans, enraged by Italy’s assault on the world’s last remaining bastion of black power, managed some- how to make small contributions to organisations pur- porting to be raising funds for the Ethiopian cause.

Admittedly, such donations were usually minute sums, but they should not be scoffed at or summarily dismissed as being of no significance. Taken as a whole, these amounts may well have attained an impressive total, which certainly would have been of some, if not decisive, benefit to the Ethiopians.3 Unfortunately, prior to 1937, when the newly created Ethiopian World Federation assumed official control of all fund-raising activities in the United States, only a limited percentage of even these modest contributions seems to have reached its proper destination.

From the very outbreak of hostilities, black embezzlers and racketeers sought to take advantage of Afro- American sympathy for the Ethiopian people. These criminals gave the public impression that they were col- lecting funds for Ethiopia’s defence, but in reality, of course, they were lining their own pockets. In addition, some responsible organisations and individuals may have engaged in faulty business practices or even have mis- managed funds.4

To remedy this situation and more effectively cor- ordinate the efforts of the myriad pro-Ethiopian or- ganisations in New York, a number of public-spirited black citizens in Harlem formed the Menilek Club some time during 1936.5 This very small but active group desired to integrate all of the existing Ethiopian aid societies into one organisation officially recognised by the Ethiopian authorities. To the surprise of many sceptics, the efforts of the club actually culminated in the sending of a black American delegation to England in the summer of 1936 to confer directly with the exiled Haile Selassie about financial matters.

The mission consisted of three prominent Harlem figures, all leaders of the black organisation known as the United Aid for Ethiopia: Reverend William Lloyd Imes, pastor of the prestigious St. James Presbyterian, Philip M. Savory, chairman of the Victory Insurance Company and co-owner of the New York Amsterdam News, and Mr. Cyril M. Philp, secretary of the United Aid.6 In August 1936, the trio sailed without fanfare for England.7

Despite later rumours that he had rebuffed a black delegation in London, the Ethiopian emperor cordially received the Afro-American party at his residence in Bath. During the audience, the black Americans informed the monarch that large sums of money had been and were still being raised in the United States by unauthorised persons in the name of Ethiopia. They stressed the necessity of sending a special emissary to America to direct the collection of all contributions and to help awaken flagging Afro-American support for the Ethiopian cause. Impressed, Haile Selassie decided to dis- patch an envoy to the United States. He selected his personal physician, Dr. Malaku Emanuel Bayen, for the new position.8 Later events were to prove that the emperor could not have made a better choice.

The son of the Gerazmatch (Baron) Bayen and Waizero (Lady) Desta, Malaku Bayen was born on April 29, 1900, in Wollo Province in central Ethiopia.9 At six months of age, he was taken by his parents to the city of Harar, where he grew up in the palace of Ras (Grand Duke) Tafari Makonnen, his mother’s first cousin and the future emperor of Ethiopia.10 In accordance with the aristo- cracy’s custom of educating and training likely young boys for positions of leadership, young Bayen was placed under the tutelage of his prominent and powerful rela- tive and taught by priests, attached to Ras Tafari’s palace.11

During these years, Bayen lived close to the future king, serving as both his page and personal attendant. In 1921, when Tafari was selecting young Ethiopian men and women to be educated abroad, Bayen was among the first to be chosen. " I was told of my responsibility by His Majesty himself; that I was to study medicine and return to Ethiopia as a physician for the purpose of helping to organise the Public Health System. . . ,"12

Bayen was subsequently sent to Bombay, India with three colleagues, two young men and a woman, for pre- paratory studies under private tutors from Great Britain. Cast in the typical imperialistic mould of Victorian Eng- land, these instructors used " to tell us," Bayen later re- called, " of the greatness of the British Empire."13 Finally, when his teachers haughtily informed him6 and his com- rades that it was British destiny one day to control Ethiopia, Bayen decided that he had had enough of an English education. After discussing the matter, he and his friends concluded that, " America was the only country that would never try to rob us of our country; therefore it would be best to go there."14

The tiny group thereupon prevailed upon their bene- factor, Ras Tarari, to permit them to pursue their studies in the United States, where imperialistic designs on Africa seemed absent. Much to their probable relief and delight, the students’ request was granted.15 Thus, within the short span of one year they were preparing to travel to yet another far-off land of whose existence most of their countrymen were only dimly aware.

Shortly thereafter, in the company of an American mis- sionary to Ethiopia, Bayen set sail with two of his col- leagues for the United States. (The young woman had died in India.) The three students arrived in America in April 1922, carrying with them a personal letter of intro- duction to President Warren G. Harding from Ras Tafari, by now heir apparent to the Ethiopian throne. Because of their impressive credentials from the Ethio- pian regent, the trio was permitted to meet Mr. Harding, who urged the Africans to enroll at his alma mater, Marietta College. The Ethiopians accepted the President’s kindly suggestion and proceeded to apply for admis- sion to Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, since it had recently absorbed the smaller Marietta.16

A series of placement tests given to the Ethiopians qualified them, however, for only the first year of high school, compelling them to begin their academic careers in the United States as secondary school freshmen. Apparently undaunted by this unexpected turn of events, Bayen zealously studied his lessons at Muskingum Academy and by attending classes during the regular school year and summers he was able to complete his high school education in 1925. That fall Bayen entered Muskingum College; he graduated from that institution just three years later, becoming one of the first Ethiopian nationals to earn an American degree.17

The autumn of 1928 found Bayen at Ohio State Uni- versity in Columbus, Ohio, where he had enrolled as a graduate student in chemistry. He remained there, however, for only one academic year. Some time during that year, the Ethiopian applied and was admitted to the Medical School at Howard University, one of the nation’s most prestigious black educational institutions.18

Bayen’s stated reasons for matriculating at a black university suggest a strong commitment to the concept of pan-Africanism. " My Belief in Race Solidarity," Bayen wrote in 1939, " caused me to select Howard Uni- versity for my studies, in order that I might have a closer contact with my people. In fact," he continued, " it was this idea that helped me to break my engagement to the daughter of our Minister of Foreign Affairs and to to be married to an American girl (Dorothy Hadley) of the Black Race, in 1931."19

The source of Bayen’s identification with Afro- Americans is not entirely clear, but his convictions may have been partially shaped by his close relationship with Dr. Azaj Workneh Martin, a leading Ethiopian physician and staunch advocate of pan-Africanism. As early as 1927, Dr. Martin had advised Bayen that, " The greatest service you could render your country would be to in- fluence thousands of Black people in the U.S.A. and the West Indies and let them come and help us develop Ethiopia."20 It is, of course, possible that Bayen was also inspired by the nationalistic Garvey movement which was reaching its peak when he arrived in the United States during the early 1920’s. Finally, like other Africans studying in the United States during these years, Bayen was probably becoming well acquainted with Afro-American institutions, leaders and thought.21

Whatever its orgins, Bayen’s pan-Africanism was more than just an attitude of mind. He fully realised the practical benefits that could result from international black brotherhood. Thus, between 1930 and 1935, Bayen followed Dr. Martin’s advice and arranged for several highly skilled Afro-Americans to be invited to Ethiopia by the imperial government as advisers.

In 1930, Bayen took Hubert F. Julian, the Harlem aviator, to Ethiopia. A year later he arranged to have Dr. John West, a physician from Washington, D.C., sent to his country to serve there as a public health official. In 1932, Bayen was instrumental in obtaining a position in the Ethiopian school system for Cyril Price, and in 1934 he played a prominent role in assisting John C. Robinson of Chicago to be appointed as an instructor in aviation.22

Although some of the Afro-Americans who found their way to Ethiopia during this period proved to be considerably less effective and suitable than others, neither Bayen nor the Emperor Haile Selassie seem to have become disenchanted with Afro-Americans as a people. Bayen, especially, continued, despite some dis- appointments, to court black Americans with enthusiasm. For instance, some time in the spring of 1935, he ap- pealed to officials at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to send several of its outstanding graduates to Ethiopia to assist in the agricultural development of the empire.23 Tuskegee, which had a long history of such involvement in African development,24 had apparently agreed to unundertake the Ethiopian project, but the outbreak of war with Italy that fall prevented fulfilment of the plan.25

After the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, Bayen focused less upon recruiting skilled Afro-Americans for service in Ethiopia and more on mobilising black American sup- port for his country. Concentrating on black institutions, Bayen undertook to speak to a wide variety of Afro- American social and religious organisations; the black church, longtime centre and bulwark of the Afro-Ameri- can community, seems, however, to have been his princi- pal forum.

Before these usually receptive groups, the Ethiopian spokesman was careful to stress the importance of inter- national black unity and the responsibility of black people to each other. For instance, shortly before the eruption of formal hostilities between Ethiopia and Italy, Bayen told an audience of three hundred at Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia that, " Abyssinia is the pride of the black people of the world and the only thing that has delayed Italy’s formal declaration of war thus far has been public opinion. If we are convicted it is be- cause we are black. The American Negro is (therefore) duty-bound to support Abyssinia."26

Since he was one of the few Ethiopians in the United States at the time and because of widespread reports that he was a close relative of the Ethiopian Emperor, Bayen received much publicity in the Afro-American press and many inquiries from blacks how they could best assist Ethiopia during this critical period. Those who wished to serve as volunteers in the Imperial’ Ethiopian Army naturally sought his advice and co-operation, since there were reports in the black press that would-be volunteers could " enroll with Malaku Bayen at (his residence) 1260 Columbia Road, northwest, Washington."27

Immediately following the publication of such infor- mation, the Ethiopian made it explicitly clear, however, that he was not involved in recruiting activities: " I wish it to be understood that my only mission in the United States is to get an education." But conscious of Afro- American sensitivities, Bayen added, " I think it is a fine spirit for the (black) Americans to be showing, inasmuch as Ethiopia is contending for a principle. I am sure that my country would be pleased to know of such willing- ness."28 Furthermore, Bayen also expressed the en- couraging view that he did not see why his government would refuse such help, provided Afro-American partici- pation in the war constituted no infraction of American neutrality laws.29

Despite the anxieties created by the crisis in Ethiopia and the activities in which he was increasingly engaged as a result of his own concern for his country’s welfare, Bayen passed his examinations at Howard University and was graduated from its medical school in June 1935.30 Originally, Dr. Bayen had intended to remain in the United States to complete his internship, but the serious situation in Ethiopia caused the Emperor to recall him. Thus, on July 10, 1935, the physician departed for Ethiopia with his wife, Dorothy, and young son, Malaku, Jnr.31

The Bayens arrived in Addis Ababa on August 1, and were soon settled in a large, modern two-storey house in which few of the comforts of a Washington home were lacking.32 Life, of course, in war-time Ethiopia was far from idyllic for the family, or for that matter, anyone else. Fortunately, however, no one in the Bayens’ immediate household was personally harmed as a result of the conflict,33 but Dr. Bayen’s duties at the American Mission Hospital in the capital and later with the Ethiopian Red Cross in the Ogaden, brought him into intimate contact with the war.34

Meanwhile, the war went badly for the Ethiopians. When it became crystal clear in late April 1936 that it was senseless to attempt to defend the capital in the face of certain defeat, the members of the Imperial Council persuaded the Emperor to leave the country for Geneva to make a final appeal to the League of Nations for sup- port. On May 1, 1936, Haile Selassie turned over the reins of government to Bitwodded (Most Trusted) Wolde Tzaddick, President of the Ethiopian Senate, with in- structions that the capital be transferred to Gore, near the Sudanese border. A day later with the royal family and about 100 high-ranking officers and close associates, the Emperor boarded a special train for Jibouti in French Somaliland.35 Among those who left Addis Ababa with the monarch were Malaku Bayen and his family; they were ultimately to accompany Haile Selassie to England, where the Emperor was to seek support for a campaign to dislodge the Italians from Ethiopia.36

In London, Dr. Bayen served as the exiled sovereign’s personal physician, interpreter, secretary, and in other capacities demanded by those trying times.37 The British capital was home for the Bayens, however, for only a brief period. In September 1936 their stay in London was interrupted by the doctor’s selection as Haile Selassie’s special representative to the United States.38 A year earlier, the Ethiopian ruler had wanted the young man to head a mission in the U.S., but on that occasion Bayen had declined. He later explained that being " the only Black physician on the entire Northern front," and generally distrusting his white colleagues in whose care Haile Selassie would have been left, he begged to be permitted to remain with the Emperor.39

For various reasons, Bayen was enthusiastic about the new offer. Undismayed by the magnitude of the task, he welcomed the opportunity to tell the Ethiopian story to his black brothers in the United States and to mobilise their support as well as that of sympathetic whites.40 Besides, his new responsibility would take him from England, which he found increasingly demoralising,41 and the Emperor now seemed relatively safe at his secluded English residence. Thus, it was with no great apprehension that the Bayens left London on September 12, 1936, for the United States.42

The family arrived in New York on September 23, 1936.43 It quickly became apparent to Dr. and Mrs. Bayen that very little, if anything, had changed in America in regard to the racial situation. Racial bigotry was as rampant as ever – even in " liberal " New York City. Although arrangements had been made in advance for the Bayens at the Delano, a modest hotel on West 43rd Street, they were refused accommodation upon arrival.44 Making no distinction between domestic and foreign blacks, the Delano’s management excluded both varieties, even though in this particular case the African involved was considered by " knowledgeable " whites as a dark-skinned Caucasian.

Because of the incident, protests were made to the U.S. State Department. The perfunctory response of Cordell Hull, the Secretary of State, indicated that he regretted any insults to distinguished foreign guests, but that he could take no action since Dr. Bayen had no official standing with the American government.45 The matter was not dropped, however, as a coalition of Harlemites, white trade unionists, and lawyers from the International Labor Defense (I.L.D.) forced the Delano to capitulate and open its doors to the black family.46 Nevertheless, the Bayens ended up staying at another downtown hotel before taking up permanent residence in Harlem.47

Despite the incident at the Delano, which demanded much of his attention, Bayen wasted no time in establishing contact with New York’s Afro- American community. On September 28, 1936, just five days after his return to the United States, the physician addressed a gathering of two thousand at Harlem’s Rockland Palace, a popular meeting place, then as well as now, for black national- ists.48 In a rousing speech, the Ethiopian delegate informed the crowd that his country was not conquered and never would be. Declaring that, " We will never give up," Bayen told the audience that, " our soldiers will never cease fighting until the enemy is driven from our soil." The gathering went " wild with joy " and, according to the doctor, many of those present proceeded to work with him " in the interest of Ethiopia and the Black Race . . . "49

It is of particular interest to pause here, however, to note the comments of one widely read and respected scholar regarding Dr. Bayen’s arrival in the United States. In a controversial study of Afro-American and African relations, Professor Harold R. Isaacs has asserted that only in 1936, when Haile Selassie’s " neph- ew," meaning Malaku Bayen, came to the United States and refused to appear at a great rally organised for him in Harlem, did the Ethiopians’ negative view of Negroes begin to be more commonly known.59 " There was nothing new," concluded Isaacs, " in discovering white duplicity at the black man’s expense; it was much harder to suffer the indignity of being rejected by the embattled black Ethiopian even as one was cheering him on. In this country the blow was passed over in angry embarrass- ment."51

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. There is no doubt that Bayen attended the " great rally organised for him in Harlem." In addition to newspaper reports attesting to that fact and Bayen’s own testimony there is the account of Richard B. Moore, long-time resident of Harlem and prominent lecturer and writer in the field of Afro-American history. In an article des- cribing Harlem’s traditional interest in Africa, Moore has written that, " Dr. Malaku E. Bayen, cousin and per- sonal physician to the Emperor, was appointed as his representative and was greeted with acclaim at a great meeting at Rockland Palace."52

Even one of the sources which Isaacs freely draws upon Claude McKay’s Negro Metropolis indicates that Dr. Bayen was enthusiastically received by Harlemites and that he reciprocated their goodwill. McKay re- marked in his analysis of Harlem life that Haile Selassie aware of his bad publicity among Afro-Americans wisely sent his cousin to represent him in Black America: " In Dr. Bayen’s charming presence Aframericans (sic) could be convinced that Ethiopians are not white or Mongolians, but authentic Africans, even if like thou- sands of educated Aframericans, they reject the word ‘ Negro ‘." Also, in unmistakable language, McKay stated that, " When Dr. Malaku Bayen arrived in 1936,Harlem gave him a grand welcome."53

In an attempt to further demonstrate the extent to which Ethiopians, specifically Haile Selassie, allegedly rejected any identification with black Americans, the M.I.T. professor has repeated the often made assertion that when the Ethiopian ruler fled to London, Marcus Garvey tried to contact him, but was snubbed because the Emperor did not desire any contact with Negroes.54 Infuriated, says Isaacs, by the Ethiopian monarch’s refusal to see him, Garvey unleashed a heavy verbal attack on the Lion of Judah.55

To be sure, there is no doubt that Marcus Garvey was not granted an audience by Haile Selassie or that in retaliation he publicly castigated the exiled king as a coward for leaving Ethiopia. Whether or not the Ethio- pian monarch chose not to see Garvey for the reasons stated by the Jamaican and reiterated by Professor Isaacs, however, is debatable. A former member of the U.N.I.A., who emigrated to Ethiopia in the early 193O’s and later became embittered by Garvey’s denunciation of Haile Selassie, has offered the explanation that the Emperor " probably saw no worthwhile reason to grant Mr. Garvey an audience."56 Viewing the matter from a slightly different perspective, it is also quite possible that because of Garvey’s tarnished image at the time the Emperor may have felt that any association with him could result in adverse publicity in the world press. Furthermore, it is relatively certain that political rather than racial considerations precipitated the Garvey Haile Selassie confrontation. By freely meeting with Afro-American delegations in 1936 and in the summer of 1937, the Emperor clearly demonstrated his willingness to associate with black Americans.57

In any case, Malaku Bayen, even as Haile Selassie’s spokesman, made no attempt to explain Garvey’s failure to see the Emperor. He did, however, strive to defend his sovereign against Garvey’s violent verbal outbursts. Speaking in April 1937, before a gathering of five thou- sand blacks at the Rising Sun Club in Philadelphia, Bayen blamed Garvey for many of the unpopular rumours being circulated about the Ethiopian monarch. " It was Garvey," claimed Dr. Bayen, " who was respon- sible for news that spread over the world that Emperor Haile Selassie had refused to meet a coloured legation when he arrived in London."58 The doctor believed that Garvey’s hostile attitude derived not so much from the fact that he had been snubbed by the Emperor, but from jealousy. Haile Selassie had eclipsed Garvey in the minds of many blacks, and Bayen argued that the latter strongly resented it.59 Whatever the reasons, Garvey was only partially successful in casting his adversary in the role of a villain.

According to Claude McKay, Garvey’s denunciation did not alter the general opinion among the black masses towards Haile Selassie. " To the emotional masses of the American Negro church the Ethiopia of today (1940) is the wonderful Ethiopia of the Bible. In a religious sense it is far more real to them than the West African lands, from which it is assumed that most of the ancestors of Aframericans came. They were happy that the emperor had escaped (from Addis Ababa) alive. As an ex-ruler he remained a symbol of authority over the Negro state of their imagination."69

As soon as his family was settled comfortably in Harlem, Dr. Bayen arranged a series of public speaking engagements with the co-operation of the United Aid for Ethiopia. Appearing frequently with local national- ist figures, he was often greeted with packed houses.61 It was on these occasions and at press conferences that the Ethiopian representative attempted to explain the purpose of his mission. In October 1936, he stated that it was his responsibility to receive all funds collected for the Ethiopian cause and " such other contributions as individuals or groups wished to make in the interest of Ethiopia."82 Bayen later indicated, however, that the money being raised was not for the purpose of promoting the war effort. It was to assist Ethiopian refugees, help operate legations in countries still recognising the Haile Selassie regime, and carry on the diplomatic fight at the League of Nations.60

Of course, merely explaining the purpose of his mission was not going to assure Bayen any measure of success in raising money in Harlem. He had to impress upon Afro-Americans, who were themselves during these lean years engaged in a struggle for survival, the importance tor black people to support Ethiopia. Thus, Dr. Bayen fried to make it explicitly clear that he was in the United States as a special emissary of Haile Selassie to the Afro- American community to gather black support for the Ethiopian people. He carefully pointed out that the Emperor had sent his personal greetings to black Ameri- cans and that His Majesty had appreciated their past efforts in his behalf.64

Bayen’s approach was direct and straight to the point. Relying perhaps on experience derived from long years of associations with the Afro-American, he made little attempt to be subtle in his remarks. One black audience was told bluntly that " Had coloured America taken a more active part, the outcome of the Ethiopian campaign might have been different. But instead of playing the part you should, all of you went to sleep, are still asleep, and are perfectly satisfied with your present conditions."65 Even though such caustic comments tended to alienate some, the emissary’s hardline and direct approach paid off to a certain degree. In the fall of 1936, the New York Amsterdam News, a black publication, reported that the mounting subscriptions made out to Dr. Bayen provided ample proof for the doubtful that, " the cause of justice for Ethiopia was still very much alive in New York."66

While Bayen’s speaking engagements resulted in some contributions, in themselves, his speeches and those of his associates were an inadequate instrument for tapping the limited sources of the black community. The doctor realised this shortcoming and in November 1936, he announced the establishment of a Haile Selassie Fund Drive, to begin early in December. Intending to reach virtually every resident of Harlem, Bayen planned to have house to house canvassers enlist the support of each tenant in the area. The primary feature of this ambitious relief campaign was to be a stamp drive.67

In short, by encouraging patronage of local businesses that distributed to customers Haile Selassie stamps, which were prize redeemable, Dr. Bayen hoped to gain the financial support of New York’s black petit-bour- geoisie.68 During the drive, the Ethiopian claimed wide- spread co-operation from Harlem’s small merchant class, but in reality there is little, if any, indication that his ingenious plan enjoyed more than limited success. Reflecting upon the lack of black responsiveness, a prominent Harlem entrepreneur commented when asked by reporters that he was not quite certain why more Afro-Americans did not demand the stamps with their purchases. He could only venture the guess that, " those (few) with liberty and full stomachs do not worry about those without."69

Nevertheless, there is the example of an ambitious and dedicated young black woman, Mildred Houston of New York, who collected 1,672 Ethiopian stamps within a two-week period. During an interview with newsmen, Miss Houston explained: " There is nothing that I won’t do for Ethiopia if I am ever needed."70 However, for perhaps most black consumers the promise of an auto- graphed picture of Haile Selassie was hardly a realistic incentive. Furthermore, preoccupied with other issues beyond race and the racial implications of the Italo- Ethiopian war, many middle and upper-class blacks generally took little interest in the campaign, thereby placing the primary burden of its success upon the wretchedly poor ghetto dwellers.71 Consequently, the drive was virtually doomed to failure.

From the time of his return to the United States in September 1936 until August 1937, Dr. Bayen had been working in conjunction with the United Aid for Ethiopia, which was the most active of the few remaining Ethiopian aid associations. During much of this period and even prior to Bayen’s involvement, the organisation, under the leadership of Reverend William Imes, seems to have been performing well. In fact, one glowing report main- tained that it had " functioned perfectly well for a while."72 The situation began to change, however as members of the American Communist Party took sharp interest in the United Aid and attempted to transform it into a Communist front.

Wanting to be free of any entanglement with the " Reds," whether black or white, Bayen and others decided to form an entirely new organisation to be known as the Ethiopian World Federation. Consequently, the United Aid was dissolved, a number of similar groups were combined, and a new more substantial organisation with Malaku Bayen as its executive head was formally created on August 25, 1937.73 Dr. Lorenzo H. King, pastor of St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Harlem, was elected the Federation’s first president.74

Concerning itself mainly with aiding the thousands of Ethiopian refugees living in Egypt, French Somaliland, Kenya, Sudan, and elsewhere, but possessing broader political objectives than its predecessor, the Federation became a national organisation.75 Assisted in its recruit- ing efforts by its weekly tabloid, the Voice of Ethiopia (in which the term " Negro " was proscribed), the organisa- tion conducted propaganda meetings in nearly every American city with a sizeable Afro-American population. It also dispatched members to cities less well populated with blacks to establish locals.76 It was reported in July, 1938 that the Federation had founded ten locals in the United States and had another twenty-two applications pending.77 By 1940, there were twenty-two actual branches in existence, some of which were located in Latin America and the West Indies; its membership was said to be in the thousands.78

The New York membership, however, drawn largely from black nationalist organisations, formed the basic element of the movement. Claude McKay, one of the few writers to comment rather extensively upon Malaku Bayen and his activities, noted that the Federation drew its supporters from the same common people that gave power to the Garvey movement.79 Many, according to McKay, were in fact former members of the U.N.I.A.80 In Bayen or more likely in Haile Selassie, many national- ists believed that they had found a new leader to fill the vacuum created by Garvey’s deportation. Dr Bayen realised this and diligently sought to cultivate a strong nationalist image. This was particularly evident at rallies, when he would refer to his audiences as " Fellow Ethiopians " and implore black Americans to " think Black, act Black, and be Black."81

It was mainly because of Bayen’s efforts that the Federation attracted its modest following. The doctor personally visited much of the country to stimulate interest in the organisation and even later attended many of the charter day celebrations once a local had been formed. There were of course others who provided valuable assistance to the Ethiopian in his work; Mrs. Bayen, Ada Bastian and Eudora Paris recently returned emigrants from Ethiopia, and Colonel John Robinson were among the more prominent. In addition to local aid there was even assistance forthcoming from London. In September 1937, Lij (Prince) Araya Abebe, twenty- nine year old cousin to Haile Selassie and his private secretary, arrived in Harlem providing added impetus to the work of the federation.82

Unfortunately, three years later Bayen’s followers were deprived of his leadership. Ever since August 1939 when he suffered a nervous breakdown attributed to overwork, the Ethiopian had been ill.83 His condition had improved somewhat after August, and he returned to his work with the federation. But his health broke down again, and in March 1940 Bayen left New York City for treat- ment at Rockland State Hospital, an up-state sanitarium. Notwithstanding the strenuous efforts of the hospital’s staff, Bayen developed lobar pneumonia,84 and died on May 4, 1940,85 almost four years to the very day of the Italian entrance into Addis Ababa and one year prior to Haile Selassie’s triumphant return to the Ethiopian capital.

Just as Bayen had succeeded in sustaining some interest among black Americans in the plight of Ethiopia and effecting a greater understanding between some of his countrymen and Afro-Americans, his life was brought to an abrupt end. With one swift stroke sudden death had not only dispossessed a young woman and her son of a husband and father but had also as the Voice of Ethiopia eulogized, deprived Ethiopians and Afro- Americans of " one of the most useful and promising of the young leaders of the race."86 Indeed, the cause of international racial solidarity to which Bayen was so devoted, seems to have suffered a severe set-back with his loss.

Though brief and for the most part unheralded, Malaku Bayen’s life was not without significance. Dr. Bayen was the first Ethiopian seriously and steadfastly to commit himself to achieving spiritual and physical bonds of fellowship between his own people and peoples of African descent in the Americas. Building upon the earlier but largely unsustained efforts of persons like Kantiba Gabrou, the mayor of Gondar,87 and Dr. Azaj Workneh Martin, Bayen exerted himself to the fullest in attempting to bring about some kind of formal and continuing relationship designed to benefit both the Ethiopian and Afro-American.

Of course, Bayen was eminently qualified for the task. His almost thirteen years of residence in the United States, his education at Howard University, his marriage to an Afro-American, and his association with the Ethiopian World Federation, all provided him with an unparalleled knowledge, at least among Ethiopians, of the Afro-American experience. He was therefore able effectively to interpret to his fellow Ethiopians " the struggles and background of the race " in America.88 But most importantly, his activities stand out as the most prominent example of Ethiopian identification with Afro-Americans and seriously challenge claims which have been made for thirty-five years or more about the negative nature of Ethiopian attitudes toward Afro- Americans.


1    John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom (New York, 1969), p. 574.

2  Detailed information regarding the interest of Afro-Americans in the Italo-Ethiopian War can be found in Helen Hiett, " Public Opinion and the Italo-Ethiopian Dispute," Geneva (Special) Studies, Vol. VII-No. 1 (February, 1936), pp. 3-28; Richard B. Moore, "Africa Conscious Harlem," Freedomways, Vol. 3 (1963), pp. 315-324; and the author’s "A Study of Afro-American and Ethiopian Relations; 1896-1941," un- published doctoral dissertation (Princeton University, 1971), pp. 152-192.

3  Thus far, no estimates of the entire amount of money raised or sent by Afro-Americans to Ethiopia have been uncovered, making it extremely hazardous to venture a guess about the total.

4    The New York Amsterdam News, February 13, 1937, p. 7.

5  The Voice of Ethiopia, July 19, 1941, p. 2.

6  The New York Amsterdam News, February 13, 1937, p. 7.

7  The Norfolk Journal and Guide, August 19, 1936, p. 4.

8  The New York Amsterdam News, February 13, 1937, p. 7.

9  The New York Times, May 9, 1940, p. 23; the Voice of Ethiopia, May 18, 1941, p. 1. A biographical sketch of Dr. Bayen supplied to the author by Mr. William M. Steen, of Washington, D.C., proved to be of great value in the writing of this article.

10  Steen, " Biographical Sketch "; James L. Park, U.S. Charge d’affaires in Ethiopia to Henry Stimson, U.S. Secretary of State, June 11,1930, Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Ethiopia, 1930-1939 (hereafter referred to as Records of the State Department), document 884.01 A/4. This file is available at the U.S. National Archives in Washington, D.C.

11  Steen, " Biographical Sketch."

12  Malaku E. Bayen, ed., The March of Black Men (New York, 1939), p. 3.

13  Ibid, p. 4. 14. Ibid.

15  Ibid.

16  The New York Amsterdam News, May 11,1935, p. 2; Steen," Biographical Sketch "; correspondence with Dr. L. A. Porter, archivist at Muskingum College, April 7, 1971; Bayen, The March of Black Men, p. 3.

17  The Baltimore Afro-American, September 14, 1935, p. 10; correspondence with L. A. Porter, April 7, 1971.

18  The New York Amsterdam News, May 11, 1940, p. 12.

19  Bayen, The March of Black Men, p. 6.

20  Ibid., p. 4.

21   St. Clair Drake makes this point about African students in his excellent survey, " Negro Americans and the African Interest," in John P. Davis, ed., American Negro Reference Book (Englewood Cliffs, 1965), p. 688.

22  Bayen, The March of Black Men, p. 6; Addison Southard to Henry Stimson, July 30, 1930, Records of the State Department, document 884. 01A/8.

23  The New York Amsterdam News, November 9, 1935, p. 11.

24  See Louis Harlan, " Booker T. Washington and the White Man’s Burden," American Historical Review, LXXI, 2, (January, 1966), pp. 441-467,

25  The New York Amsterdam News, November 9 1935, p. 11.

26  The Philadelphia Tribune, June 13, 1935, p. 1.

27  The Baltimore Afro-American, February 23, 1935, p. 1.

28  /hid., March 2, 1935, p. 2.

29  Ibid.

30  The New York Amsterdam News, July 13, 1935, p. 3.

31  Ibid.

32  The Pittsburgh Courier, February 8, 1936, p. 6.

33  Correspondence with Mrs. Dorothy H. Bayen, March 10, 1971.

34  The New York Amsterdam News, May 11, 1940, p. 12.

35  Angelo del Boca, The Ethiopian War 1935-1941 (Chicago, 1965), pp. 201- 202.

36  Correspondence with Mrs. Bayen, March 10, 1971.

37  Bayen, The March of Black Men, p. 7; Steen, "Biographical Sketch."

38  Ibid.

39  Bayen, The March of Black Men, p. 7.

40  Ibid. Dr. Bayen was also, it seems, to co-operate with integrated and any all white organisations. But it is clear that he concentrated upon the black community in his efforts to stimulate support for Ethiopia. Furthermore, information received from Muskingurn College reveals that Bayen experi- enced a deep sense of disappointment with whites when many of his white associates, such as Dr. Lambie, a prominent missionary who had served in Ethiopia and had accompanied Bayen to America in 1922, deserted the Ethiopian cause. See Bayen’s correspondence with Dr. Robert Mongomery, President of Muskingum, between January 9, 1937 and May 14, 1937. The author is grateful to Dr. Porter of Muskingum College for her kind assistance in providing him with this information.

41   Bayen, March of Black Men, p. 7.

42  The Norfolk Journal and Guide, October 3, 1936, p. 4.

43  The New York Amsterdam News, September 26, 1936, p. 1.