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.

Black Americans and Italo-Ethiopian Relief 1935-1936

By Red Ross

The prospect of an Italo-Ethiopian conflict aroused Americans in the mid-1930s as few – if any – other African-related events ever had. This interest took different forms. For some, primarily Americans of Italian heritage, it meant a renewed pride in Italy’s greatness and a desire to aid the fatherland, even to the point of parting with one’s wedding band. The chief concern for the majority of Americans was that the United States in no way become involved: the public overwhelmingly supported Congressional neutrality legislation which required the strict embargoing of arms and vital war supplies to both belligerents in the event of hostilities. Although most Americans felt sympathy for Haile Selassie and his embattled African empire, they were reluctant to do much in the way of actual support. The only major American group which did genuinely lend support, Americans of African descent, had only limited financial ability and political influence with which to translate their concern into concrete assistance.

The United States Department of State opposed all assistance to Ethiopia except medical relief. Yet even this limitation allowed much diversity in terms of the composition, motives, and objectives of relief-oriented groups. This paper will attempt to examine the total question of American relief to Ethiopia.

The subject presents certain difficulties. For instance, delineating between categories of pro-Ethiopian groups can be somewhat of a problem. Some began as informa- tion-dispensing, pressure bodies and went out of existence after hostilities commenced; others transformed them- selves into relief groups. Still others concerned them- selves primarily with recruiting volunteers for military service in Ethiopia and/or boycotting Italian Americans. Many fly-by-night operations flourished.

The distinction between Caucasian and Negro relief groups, too, becomes blurred. " White " groups, such as the Committee for Ethiopia or the American Com- mittee on the Ethiopian Crisis, invariably had at least token black membership. After the war began in October 1935 many of the black groups, including Dr. Willis N. Huggins’ Friends of Ethiopia, co-operated with the im- portant " establishment " white co-ordinating organisa- tion, American Aid for Ethiopia. However, as a result of an Ethiopian emissary’s year-end visit to America, a number of Negro groups realigned themselves under an all-black umbrella body, United Aid to Ethiopia.

Historians consider the December 5, 1934, skirmish between Ethiopians and Italians at Wai Wai, an isolated water hole sixty miles inside Ethiopia from the Italian Somaliland border, as the first shot of the Italo-Ethiopian War. Mussolini seized upon this incident as his casus belli. Between December 1934 and the following October he fought a virulent propaganda campaign against

Ethiopia. During the period Negro Americans acted as the most important pressure group in the country trying to persuade Roosevelt and Secretary of State Hull to protect Ethiopia from what appeared to be the certainty of a forthcoming Italian invasion.

Blacks in this country knew comparatively little about Ethiopia, except that it stood as the symbol of African achievement. Ethiopia, the sole African kingdom which had managed to retain its independence during the European scramble for colonies at the close of the nine- teenth century, had a long recorded history, an ancient Coptic Christian faith, a monarchy which claimed descent from King Solomon, and internationally recog- nised diplomatic status. Negro Americans did what they could to prevent her destruction.

One of the earliest organised efforts was the Provisional Committee for the Defense of Ethiopia, set up in New York City in February 1935 by delegates from twenty Harlem organisations (the New York division of Garvey’s old Universal Negro Improvement Association, the YMCA’s educational branch, the local Elks lodge, and the League of Struggle for Negro Rights, to name but four) with a claimed membership in excess of 1 5,000.1 This committee called a mass meeting the following month to protest against Italy’s preparations for war with Ethiopia. In response to the call three thousand persons attended the rally, whose speakers included the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, Joel A. Rogers, a historian and journalist who was to serve as war correspondent in Ethiopia, Dr. Willis N. Huggins, likewise both a historian and an im- portant person in the Ethiopian-related events of 1935-6, Captain A. L. King, President of the U.N.I.A., James W. Ford, head of the Harlem section of the Communist party, and Arthur Reid, leader of the small, but vocal, African Patriotic League. With the conspicuous omission of an NAACP spokesman, and possibly one from the American League against War and Fascism, these men well represented those groups which were most influential in moulding black opinion on the Ethiopian question: clergymen, Garveyites, Communists, teachers, journalists and street corner orators. The resolutions adopted were typical of those of subsequent protest gatherings:

(1)    Ethiopia needs money, arms and munitions rather than man-power.

(2)    Resolutions of protest to be sent to Mussolini, League of Nations, Secretary of State, and Mayor of New York.

(3)   A 50,000 person parade be held in Harlem soon.

(4)    Harlemites spend no money where it might find its way to Italian fascists to be used " to stab our brothers in the back."2

Mass meetings were held during the spring and summer in a number of American cities, with greatest success in New York and Chicago. Chicago activities, spearheaded by Robert L. Ephraim, a former travelling organiser for Marcus Garvey, and his Negro World Alliance, included a June 30th protest march which ended with the police battling the demonstrators. At the very least, the East African crisis sensitised a sizeable number of Negroes to events outside America’s borders.

But Negro awareness, even concern, could not in itself be sufficient to preserve Ethiopian independence. At a summer rally in Harlem Dr. Huggins asserted that this could be done if Negroes of the world aroused the world- wide pro-Ethiopian liberal attitude into a militant mood.3 To this goal several predominantly black organisations dedicated themselves.

As early as December 1934 the Ethiopian Research Council, directed by Howard University anthropologist W. Leo Hansberry, had been set up " for the purpose of disseminating information on the history, civilisation, and diplomatic relations of Ethiopia in Ancient and Modern times."4 Hansberry and his associates, among whom were the three Ethiopian students studying in the United States as well as fellow Howard professor Ralph Bunche, hoped eventually to establish an information bureau, an historical research service, and an Ethiopia digest which would reprint, summarise and analyse world-wide articles on Ethiopia. In Wilberforce, Ohio, members of the Wilberforce University community, in- cluding A.M.E. Bishop Reverdy C. Ransom, President R. R. Wright, Jr., and Miss Hallie Q. Brown, formed what was to be the first chapter of an association with a chapter on every Negro college campus. Its objectives were: to aid in the preservation of the territorial integrity and political sovereignty of the kingdom of Abys- sinia, to spread information and helpful propaganda in its interest, (and) to petition the Government of the United States to use its good offices to the end that the differences between Italy and Abyssinia may be settled by arbitration.5

There existed a genuine need for more information on Ethiopia. Close though Negro Americans might feel towards Ethiopia, they – and the American community in general – were almost totally uninformed as to exactly who the Ethiopians were and what was their history. As Carter G. Woodson, distinguished editor of the Journal of Negro History, would write at the year’s end to the editor of the Afro-American, one of the nation’s most widely read black weeklies:

With the approach of Negro History Week, many teachers are planning to build their programs around Ethiopia, but historians can give them little assistance.

. . . The books which are already available supply little of much needed information and most of those now tumbling in large numbers from the presses are not intended to inform the people but to exploit the gullible American public, which feasts upon falsehoods and scandal.6

The Afro-American, itself, had several months earlier tried to further a knowledge of Ethiopia by recommend- ing to subscribers Drew Pearson and Constantine Brown’s The American Diplomatic Game, Gordon McCreagh’s The Last of Free Africa, L. M. Nesbitt’s Hell Hole of Creation, and the Encyclopedia Britannica.1

If these were the best available references, one can easily account for a prevailing state of misinformation. The American Diplomatic Game dealt generally with American foreign policy in the 1920s and early 1930s rather than with the Ethiopian crisis. Likewise, Hell Hole of Creation referred only peripherally to Ethiopia proper, being a narrative of the exploration of the desolate, sparsely populated Danakil region in the remote north-east. Only in The Last of Free Africa, a collection of pro-Ethiopian articles which first appeared in the late 1920s in Adventure Magazine, could the reader gain a comprehensive picture of the " Island of Christianity in a sea of black pagan- ism." Yet even here the pages expounding Ethiopian history left much to be desired.

Ethiopia was indeed isolated from America in all but a spiritual sense. Annual trade between the United States and Ethiopia amounted to less than $500,000, with Singer Sewing Machine Company and a New York engineering firm the only American concerns with note- worthy concessions.8 Of the 127 Americans in Ethiopia in June 1935, 110 were religious and medical missionaries and their families, one was employed as Financial Adviser to the Emperor, ten were indigent Negro Ameri- cans soon to be evacuated, and three were with the American Legation, one of eight foreign legations in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.9

Not until July did Ethiopia have so much as a single diplomatic representative in this country. In that month she appointed as Consul-General John H. Shaw, a forty- eight year-old " honourable upright and substantial " white English-born American citizen, whose import- export business relations were exclusively with the Ethiopian Government.10 Shaw immediately announced that he had been instructed to stop all collecting of aid funds and recruiting of military volunteers.11 Many months later Shaw confided to a State Department official that since assuming his post he had received neither instructions from the Ethiopia Foreign Office nor any funds with which to operate his Consulate-General – and had advanced over S7,000 from his own pocket for its maintenance.12

The whole question of " volunteering " had been a short, but intense, episode. As early as eight months before the October invasion some American black men had begun offering their services to the Ethiopian army.13 To whom they should apply was unfortunately not certain. The Afro-American directed possible volunteers to Malaku Bayen, the Ethiopian studying medicine at Howard.14 The following week, however, the same paper published a statement by Bayen, expressing thanks for statements of support and hinting that Ethiopia would be willing to accept volunteers providing that a way could be found of keeping within American neutrality legislation, but explaining that his only mission in the United States was to get an education.15

Some American blacks, especially former members of the U.N.I.A., continued pledging their active support. In June, Samuel Daniels, president of the New York-based 30,000 member Pan African Reconstruction Association, and Harold H. Williams, a representative of the Ethio- pian League of America, set out on a nation-wide auto tour to recruit volunteers for Abyssinia.16 By mid-July Daniels boasted he had signed up over 17,500 volunteers from Boston (200), Detroit (5,000), Chicago (8,000), Kansas City, Missouri (2,000), Philadelphia (1,500), and New York (850).17 Daniels reputedly charged a mini- mum of 25 cents per enlistment as a private and higher sums for commissioned and non-commissioned officer positions.18

At the time Daniels was making his inflated claims of volunteer support for Ethiopia, the Pittsburgh Courier scored something of a scoop: it cabled Emperor Haile Selassie concerning potential American troops and received a positive reply.19 As a result thousands of men and women from thirty-eight states wrote to the paper offering to fight.20 Then the bubble burst. Courier editor Robert L. Vann, acting in his capacity as assistant to the Attorney General, contacted the State Department and was reminded of the statute which declared:
United States’ citizens cannot accept or exercise a commission to serve a foreign nation in war against a nation with whom the United States are at peace … If they do they shall be guilty of high misdemeanour and shall be fined not more than $2,000 and imprisoned not more than 3 years.21 Mass transportation of fighters had never been a financial practicality. The State Department’s attitude, coupled with the negative position of the newly appointed Ethiopian Consul General, discouraged further organised efforts of this type. In point of fact only two black Americans, both aviators, did fight in the war: West Indian-born Hubert Julian, " the Black Eagle of Har- lem," and Chicagoan Col. John C. Robinson, " the Brown Condor." Julian grew tired of fighting for Ethiopia and defected to the Italians; Robinson returned home in triumph in 1936.

Shaw had had reason for concern over collections of money for Ethiopia. In July the State Department, fearing anti-Italian outbursts, sent an official to Harlem to investigate certain activities connected with the Italo- Ethiopian dispute. The investigator told of the solicita- tions of a certain Sam Davidson " and a few lesser lights " for 25 cents contributions from persons attending nightly meetings, an operation characterised as "a Sam Davidson racket pure and simple."22 Another State Department official reported:
… on practically every street corner between
125th and 145th Streets speakers were stationed on
stepladders on all four corners of street intersections.
They were haranguing crowds varying in number
from fifty to as many as one thousand. Most of
these speaking displayed an Ethiopian flag as well
as a placard announcing that they were working for
the Ethiopian cause. After speeches were made a
hat was passed and a collection taken up … there
could not have been more than a dollar in each case
since most people dropped in only a cent or two.23
Several newspapers, too, commented on the spirited
activity in the area.24 Reports of similar collections
emanated from such widely distant points as Texas,
North Carolina, and California.26
The Ethiopian Consul General, maintaining that the money collected was being used solely for private pur- poses, opposed all these projects.26 But Shaw seemed especially troubled by the efforts of one particular or- ganisation, Robert F. S. Harris’s Committee for Ethiopia. Harris, a former newsman who privately claimed to have been both a one-time Assistant Managing Editor of the New York Herald as well as a foreign correspondent who years ago had spent time in Ethiopia, had on July 1, 1935, sent out 5,000 circulars to concerned persons, pri- marily clergymen, asking their co-operation in both accepting a place on his Committee for Ethiopia and contributing toward the expenses of printing and distributing materials.27 The committee’s seven-fold program- me included moulding public opinion, setting up a nation-wide day of prayer, " preventing communist ele- ments from taking advantage of the Italo-Ethiopian crisis to further their subversive propaganda and agitation among Americans of African descent," sending medical supplies to Ethiopia, and erecting a modern, short-wave station in Addis Ababa.28 Harris had tried to secure Shaw’s co-operation (as well as $500 with which to launch the publicity campaign) but had been rebuffed on both counts.29

Why Harris undertook this project is not entirely clear. In a New York Times account he explained that letters from Americans in Ethiopia had prompted R. H. Hutchison, general secretary of the United Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, and others to form the committee with the hope of arousing public concern over Ethiopia.30 Apparently Harris was not " actuated entirely by high and lofty motives," for he expected to profit from his venture by obtaining from the Government of Ethiopia concessions for the " wireless " operation and for the growing of mocha coffee.41

By August 15 Harris had received enough response to warrant setting up an executive committee of forty-nine, half of whom were " coloured."32 The Rev. Adam Clay- ton Powell, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, was named the committee’s vice chairman and a branch office was established in Harlem at 2143 Seventh Avenue from which the work of various pro-Ethiopian groups could be co-ordinated.33 Harris himself had set up head- quarters at the Manhattan Art Press, 228 East 45th Street.34

Harris’s activities, once he had gained sufficient en- dorsement for a decent letterhead, were twofold: organis- ing a petition campaign calling upon the United States to invoke the Kellogg-Briand pact and co-ordinating August 18 prayer activities. As for the former venture Harris printed 235,000 circulars and sent them to various individuals and peace groups throughout the nation.35 Harris held that if Great Britain could count more than ten million citizens who believed in peace, the United States’ total should at least equal the British figure.36

This author is unaware of the outcome of Harris’s petition campaign. The August 18 day of prayer was, however, a well-publicised success with over 3,000 con- gregations in America and the West Indies participat- ing.37 Haile Selassie co-operated by ordering special prayers for peace and national independence in all Ethiopian churches and by attending a particularly impressive ceremony at St. George’s Cathedral in Addis Ababa.38 The date had been settled upon by Harris, after discussion with the Rev. W. W. Van Kirk, secretary of the Federal Council of Churches’ Department of international Goodwill and Justice, as the Sunday prior to the issuance of the League of Nations’ Conciliation Commission report.39

Harris was not alone in trying to awaken American interest in Ethiopia. Soon a second white-led pro- Ethiopian organisation, the American Committee on the Ethiopian Crisis, would be organised, this time by " establishment " philanthropic and religious leaders.

Emory Ross, a white missionary who had spent more than twenty years of service in west and central Africa, had returned to America in 1933 and had subsequently become secretary of the African Welfare Committee of the Federal Council of Churches, a body jointly spon- sored by that organisation’s Department of Race Rela- tions and its Department of International Justice and Goodwill. Ross actively engaged in educational publicity about Ethiopia, contributing an article " Ethiopia – Still Proud and Free " to the Survey Graphic’s August issue. It was he who took the lead in setting up the Provisional Committee on the Ethiopian Crisis.40

To the August 14, 1935, organisational meeting came Emory Ross, Dr. Thomas Jesse Jones, Educational Direc- tor of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, Father John LaFarge, member of the editorial staff of America, Dr. Sidney E. Goldstein, chairman of the Social Service Commission of the American Conference of Rabbis, Dr. George E. Haynes, executive secretary of the Federal Council of Churches’ Race Relations Department and only Negro participant, and Dr. Thomas A. Lambie, founder of the United Presbyterian Mission in Ethiopia and field direc- tor of the Sudan Interior Mission in Ethiopia.41 A week later this group, meeting again at the League of Nations Association’s New York headquarters, transformed itself into the American Committee on the Ethiopian Crisis. It then selected Dr. Jones as chairman, Ross as executive secretary.42 They, like previous groups, adopted a set of noble aims:

(1)    To aid in maintaining peace in the present tense situation between Italy and Ethiopia.

(2)    To aid Ethiopia by peaceful means in preserving her historic and territorial sovereignty.

(3)   To maintain close relations with the Ethiopian Government, and insofar as may be mutually desired to act unofficially between its representa- tives and interested groups outside Ethiopia.43

Plans were made to form a National Committee of 150 to be composed of representatives from the fields of education, international affairs, religion and social service to further the organisation’s aims.

To a somewhat cynical observer this committee of concern seemed more concerned with keeping America out of the coming Italo-Ethiopian War than it did in preserving Ethiopian independence. Thus when Secre- tary of State Cordell Hull forced Standard Vacuum Oil Company, owned jointly by Socony Vacuum and Stand- ard Oil of New Jersey, to relinquish a recently negotiated concession for oil rights in Ethiopia the committee sent a telegram commending the action.44

From its inception The American Committee on the Ethiopian Crisis was at odds with the Committee for Ethiopia. Shaw, who gave the former his full endorse- ment, likewise supported its decision to investigate Ethiopian assistance " rackets."45 And when it came to rackets, Shaw had the Harris committee specifically in mind.46

As of the beginning of September, Harris had received less than $100.47 Yet he was soon to begin actively soliciting funds for medical supplies; by distributing coin cards to churches throughout the nation he hoped to gain individual 10 cent donations.48 Harris claimed to be operating under the direct authorisation of the Ethiopian Minister to Great Britain, Dr. Azaj W. Martin.40 If this were so, he was not alone.

In July the Provisional Committee for the Defense of Ethiopia, in co-operation with the Committee on Ethiopia and the American League Against War and Fascism, had sent Dr. Willis N. Huggins to Geneva with a petition urging that the League of Nations take measure to restrain Italy, assure Ethiopia of the League’s support, and send a neutral commission to report on boundary disputes.50 While in Europe, Huggins met with Ethiopian ministers to both France and Great Britain.51 From the latter Huggins received authorisation to organise activi- ties on Ethiopia’s behalf, principally in securing a public loan through a reputable banking house and in procuring medical supplies and personnel.52

Upon his return Huggins announced the formation of the Friends of Ethiopia of the United States, with head- quarters at 1890 Seventh Avenue in Harlem.53 The exact nature of his contact with Dr. Martin in London is open to some question. On August 19, 1935, the Ethiopian Minister wrote to the Associated Negro Press endorsing Huggins’ plans.54 The A.N.P.’s head, Claude A. Barnett, promptly sent out the story. A month later Dr. Martin again wrote to Barnett this time asking the newsman to " keep a separate account of the money collected and tell Dr. Huggins to send it to me as soon as .$100 has been subscribed . . ."55

As the probability of armed hostilities increased new efforts were made to raise funds for the sending of medical supplies to Ethiopia, both by existing com- mittees and by newly formed ones. In New York City the Medical Committee for the Defense of Ethiopia, a predominantly black group composed of thirty physi- cians, dentists, pharmacists, nurses and technicians, an- nounced " an energetic drive to send immediate medical assistance to the Ethiopian people."56 Harris’s Com- mittee for Ethiopia sent the first shipment of supplies.

On August 4, 1935, the Committee for Ethiopia had begun a nation-wide fund-raising drive in order to buy gas masks, ambulance litters, medical supplies and hospital equipment to be sent to Ethiopia.57 Late that month the Committee for Ethiopia sent on board the steamship Ingria of the Franco-Iberian Line its first – and only – shipment.58 One of the New York papers ran the story accompanied by a photograph showing the Committee’s Medical Director, Dr. L. Shapiro, standing besides a pile of supplies over which had been draped a Red Cross flag.59 The news story failed to mention that the shipment consisted entirely of antiseptic articles furnished by the Squibbs Company, worth a total of $117.60

The news account succeeded in stirring the American Red Cross into action: The Red Cross emblem had been misused. Upon being questioned Dr. Shapiro admitted that he had had no right to use the Red Cross flag, thus giving the impression that an American Red Cross expedition was being sent to Ethiopia.61 The Red Cross protested this action to Harris and received assur- ances that the misuse would not happen again.62 Early in October the American Red Cross was again to protest to Harris, this time over an October 9, 1935, Committee for Ethiopia circular calling itself " The American Auxili- ary of the Ethiopian Red Cross."63 International regu- lations forbade the existence of any Red Cross organisa- tion or unit in the United States except the American Red Cross.

At a September 19, 1935, Central Committee meeting the Red Cross had decided on three points:

(1)   In the event of hostilities the American Red Cross would offer assistance to both belligerents.

(2)    The Red Cross should not, at least at the outset, contemplate sending personnel, only funds.

(3)   The American Red Cross should not appropriate any money for war relief from existing funds since the organisation had already exceeded its esti- mated income for the fiscal year by $600,000.64

On October 3, 1935, Italian planes bombed the Ethiopian cities of Adowa and Adigiat. War had begun. Late in the evening of October 5, 1935, the State Department issued an arms embargo proclamation; the American Government had at last recognised the existence of hostilities. The American Red Cross was now free to act. It cabled its International Committee in Geneva to find out the desires of the Italian and Ethiopian Red Cross societies. The Italian group declined with thanks saying they were sufficiently prepared to cope with the situation. The Ethiopian Red Cross, on the other hand, expressed its desire for assistance.

The Ethiopian Red Cross Society, which had been organised but a few months earlier, was genuinely in need of aid. Its director, Dr. Thomas A. Lambie, and most of its members were foreign doctors connected with missionary activities. The country possessed not a single motor ambulance.65 In an effort to remedy the disadvantageous position Haile Selassie on October 6, 1935, gave to a New York Times correspondent for transmission through that paper to Robert Harris’s Committee for Ethiopia an appeal for American medical volunteers and gifts of hospital supplies.66 The letter, co-signed by Dr. Lambie, listed a wide range of things – hospital tents, surgical kits, camp beds, portable X-ray units on Ford or Chevrolet half-ton trucks, serums, bandages, disinfectants, iodine – needed by the Ethio- pians. The supplies were to be sent via Berbera, a port in British Somaliland, in packages weighing not more than seventy pounds.

Finally on October 9, 1935, Rear Admiral Cary T. Grayson, chairman of the American Red Cross, issued an appeal for funds for the Ethiopian sister society and instructed the Red Cross’s 3,709 chapters to begin accepting the contributions.67 In notifying the Inter- national Committee of its action the American Red Cross warned that large amounts in contributions were not anticipated.68 The prediction proved to be well founded.

The Red Cross announcement had gone on to say that the American society was not contemplating the sending of doctors or nurses to the war zone. Even if they had such would have been an expensive proposition. Consul General Shaw estimated that transportation costs would amount to $350 per person.69 Obviously the Committee for Ethiopia, with its total collection amount- ing to only $291.28, was in no position to promise the sending of personnel.70

Nonetheless, on October 4, 1935, Horace G. Knowles, treasurer of the Committee for Ethiopia and a former United States Minister to Rumania, had told the press that, at a cost of $5,000, a seven doctor fully-equipped medical unit, staffed by Harlem physicians, was to be sent to Ethiopia.71 This would be followed by units from Cincinnati and Cleveland. Plans were supposedly under way to raise a million dollars for medical supplies.72

Where was the Committee to get that kind of money? One possible source may have been a public relations firm which, according to Emory Ross, was to operate on a sliding commission ranging from 50 per cent of the first $50,000 raised to 16f per cent for $600,000.73 Even if the report were true the scheme was never put into operation. In mid-October Harris announced that in order " to avoid confusion and present sporadic fund raising " his committee would cease independent fund collecting and asked instead that Ethiopian sympathisers direct their contributions to local Red Cross chapters.74

Ironically as the Committee for Ethiopia was closing its doors another committee, American Aid for Ethiopia, was being set up. The American Committee on the Ethiopian Crisis had functioned as a pressure group for the preservation of peace. With the outbreak of fighting it ceased having much purpose. That committee dissolved itself to be reborn as American Aid for Ethiopia, the most important Ethiopian relief group of the war. Initially it had a board of directors composed of Dr. Thomas Jesse Jones, Dr. Sidney E. Goldstein, Dr. George E. Haynes, Emory Ross and Citizens Union chairman, Dr. William Jay Schieffelin, which was almost identical with that of the predecessor organisation, the major difference being the addition of Dr. Schieffelin who was named chairman.75

American Aid for Ethiopia set about raising money with which to fill the Emperor’s " want " list. Late in October Dr. Lambie cabled the committee to urge the sending of five trucks to be used as ambulances on the Ogaden front. A month later the first shipment, in- cluding a new Ford ambulance truck and almost a ton of medical and surgical supplies, was sent to Djibuti, French Somaliland, on board the steamer City of Swansea.76 The bandages and dressings had been pre- pared by Harlem volunteers.77

During the early months of the war the two best pub- licised relief groups were Schieffelin’s American Aid for Ethiopia and Willis Huggins’ Friends of Ethiopia. In order to facilitate the setting up of a nation-wide network of chapters Huggins had asked Walter White, secretary of the NAACP to furnish him from membership lists with the names of 300 persons who might co-operate in the venture.78 When a Florida attorney wrote to White asking for advice on organisations aiding Ethiopia, the latter recommended both Scheiffelin’s and Huggins’ organisations. On the other hand, Pittsburgh Courier columnist George Schuyler endorsed only Huggins’ Friends of Ethiopia, preferring it to a group led by "… professional Negrophile busybodies and self-appointed shepherds of the Negro races . . . who believe nothing can be done by or for Negroes unless a white man is directing it."79

The Friends of Ethiopia was affiliated with a variety of national and international organisations – the Associ- ation for the Study of Negro Life and History, the Ethio- pian Research Council, the American Pro-Falasha Com- mittee, the Universal Ethiopian Students’ Association, the International African Friends of Ethiopia (London), La Revue de Monde Noir (Paris), the Women’s Inter- national League for Peace and Freedom (Geneva) and Les Jeunnes Ethiopiennes (Addis Ababa).80 In Novem- ber the U.S. Embassy in London reported that the Inter- national African Friends of Abyssinia planned to send a fund-raising delegation, probably to be composed of George Padmore, Mrs. Marcus Garvey and the Somali leader Ismail Mohammed Said, to New York where Willis Huggins was arranging a programme.81 Another reported instance of planned co-operation between the Friends of Ethiopia and one of its affiliates, this time the Universal Ethiopian Students Association, involved the designation of the first week in December as " National Ethiopian Week," during which a campaign to raise a minimum of $5,000 would be conducted.82

The financial success of the Friends of Ethiopia is difficult to determine, for despite newspaper accounts telling of goals there were no similar announcements relating to shipments. Possibly funds collected were simply turned over to Consul General Shaw, the Red Cross or American Aid for Ethiopia. In December Huggins, who by this time was actively working with Schieffelin’s group, joined the executive committee of American Aid for Ethiopia.83 By January that organi- sation’s letterheads listed as " co-operating chapters " the Save the Children Fund and the American – Pro-Falasha Committee as well as societies in Boston, New- ark, Chicago, Richmond and Harlem.84 Perhaps Huggins1 group was the Harlem organisation in question.

The Pan-African Reconstruction Association, which in October instructed its female members to prepare bandages for Ethiopian wounded, was one Harlem organisation which never affiliated.85 Another was the Medical Committee for the Defense of Ethiopia, led by Dr. J. J. Jones, Dr. P. M. H. Savory and Dr. Arnold Donawa. Late in October this committee placed an ad in the New York Age informing those desirous of making contributions to send cash, bandages, or materials which could be made into bandages to their headquarters at the U.N.I.A. building, 36 West 135th Street.86 A month later Dr. Donawa told the press that two tons of recently shipped medical and surgical supplies had arrived in Ethiopia.87 In January the group was to announce the sending to Ethiopia via the S.S. Steel Age of both another ton of bandages and sterilised dressing as well as a field hospital containing a 90 by 16 feet hospital tent and 50 cots with full supplemental cover- ings.88

The sending of medical personnel was quite another matter. Ethiopia, with not more than six native doctors for the entire country, had been forced to rely almost exclusively on medical missionaries already stationed there and on foreign volunteer units.89 In response to the crisis Red Cross Societies of Sweden, Switzerland, Egypt, France and Great Britain had sent or sponsored units. The American Red Cross, however, never con- templated the sending of personnel to Ethiopia. Ameri- can Aid for Ethiopia expressed interest in sending indi- viduals – cost permitting – who might serve with the Ethiopian Red Cross.90 Into this situation entered the Ethiopian Research Council.

Dr. Hansberry and his colleagues, men characterised by one Red Cross official as representing " the highest type of educated negroes in the country," sought en- dorsement from the American Red Cross for the former’s sponsoring of an American hospital unit.91 The Research Council, for its part, had set up another organisation, Ethiopian Emergency Medical Aid, which was to work out the ways and means of transporting a 50-bed field hospital including a staff of doctors.92 Ethiopian Emer- gency Medical Aid was to be largely a Howard University

project, directed by Hansberry, Dr. G. M. Jones and Howard University President, Dr. Mordecai W. Johnson and supported by Howard alumni.93

The idea of sending a Negro unit under Negro auspices might have been practical had it not been for the ever present problem of finances. The Red Cross failed to give encouragement. Consul General Shaw, rather than support Ethiopian Research Council activities, urged that it convert itself into a local organisation and work in conjunction with American Aid for Ethiopia.91 The plan, like so many other Ethiopian-related projects, never quite got off the ground.

The Red Cross, itself, was doing but little better. As of December 1, 1935, it had received contributions totalling only $5,882, a sum particularly disheartening when one realises that $5,000 of it had been given by a single donor.95 By February Red Cross Vice Chairman Ernest J. Seift reported that the total funds collected had reached $7,103.45.96 To this amount the Red Cross had added an appropriation of $5,000 from its Disaster Relief Fund.97 The campaign of American Aid for Ethiopia was likewise relatively unsuccessful with only $2,000 having been collected by the end of 1935.98 Times may have been hard but they weren’t that hard. By the middle of December the New York metropolitan area, alone, had raised $500,000 for the Italian Red Cross’s African endeavours.99

Swift had told the President of the International Red Cross Committee in Geneva: " Some people abroad have the feeling that our coloured population might rally to the support of Ethiopia but they have shown little interest."108 A more correct assessment would have been that the American Negro population had little desire to work through the Red Cross. One wonders whether Swift was aware of Lij Tasfaye Zaphiro’s American visit.

The young Ethiopian, a private secretary to the Ethio- pian Minister in London, arrived in the United States on December 13, 1935, and immediately set about ad- vancing the Ethiopian cause. In a statement, which was released through Consul General Shaw’s office, Tasfaye stated that one objective of his visit was to convince the American public of the blood relationship between the Ethiopian and the Negro.101 At his first major address, a Christmas Eve gathering at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, Tasfaye, who shared the podium with Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Dr. Willis Huggins, explained to his three thousand listeners:

. . . We were happy when your Dr. Huggins came to see us in London last August and hoped that you would heed the message given him by our Legation. We have found much obstruction and many jeal- ousies from which we wish you to abstain.102 The following week at U.N.I.A. hall Tasfaye succeeded in uniting a number of black-led Ethiopian aid groups into one organisation, United Aid for Ethiopia.103

New York was the first stop on Tasfaye’s fund-raising tour, to be followed by Boston, Newark, Rochester, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.104 Rather than work through American Aid for Ethiopia, Tasfaye chose to make his own arrangements.105 During these travels Tasfaye, who claimed to be First Secretary to the Ethiopian Legation in London, raised a good deal of money including $305 from the New York Christmas rally and $350 from a Brooklyn appearance.106

The latter was the greatest amount raised by any city except Chicago.107 Chicago, which had had a functioning Society for the Aid of Ethiopia since October 17, 1935, came alive for the Ethiopian’s two-day visit. The Chicago Defender reported substantial church contribu- tions of $94.50, $106, and $100 from the Olive Baptist Church, the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Pilgrim Baptist Church, respectively.108 From an audience at the International House of the University of Chicago another $56 was collected " in the form of checks, cash and pledges."109 Nearly a thousand persons attended the mass rally at Wendell Phillips high school.110

After Tasfaye had returned to New York the Chicago committee began wondering whether he was indeed an accredited Ethiopian representative.111 They were not alone in this concern. In order to discover Tasfaye’s actual status the State Department had asked the Ameri- can Legation in Addis Ababa to find out what it could. Cornelius Van H. Engert wired back that the Ethiopian Minister for Foreign Affairs knew nothing of Tasfaye’s journey to the United States.112

Although Tasfaye never presented any credentials to Shaw, the two men initially co-operated with each other.113 Shaw paid Tasfaye’s American expenses.114 Tasfaye, who publicly acknowledged Shaw’s position as an Ethiopian official, in return turned over his lecture receipts to the Consul General.115 By March, however, relations between the two men had greatly deteriorated. The Courier was hardly in error when it reported: Zaphiro’s action in virtually splitting with Consul General John H. Shaw and becoming president of the United Aid to Ethiopia in Harlem appears on the surface as a move to challenge Shaw and set up a twin " Ethiopian Consulate " under all-coloured direction in Harlem.116

For Shaw the final straw was the discovery of a letter to the Ethiopian Legation in London in which Tasfaye had castigated Shaw as "a traitor to Ethiopia " and had implied that the Consul General was obstructing the collection of funds for medical supplies.117 Shaw told the Ethiopian visitor he’d have to return to London. This Tasfaye did.

Shaw tried to gloss over his adversary’s departure. In one interview he explained: "Zaphiro was recalled to London simply because his work was finished here."118 In another he denied knowledge of a feud among Ethio- pian aid groups.119 To prove that he was not hostile toward United Aid to Ethiopia, Shaw declared that the group would have his full approval if it carried out its announced programme.120

As would be expected of a merger, United Aid for Ethiopia was led by individuals who had already gained prominence in Ethiopian relief, with the leadership of the old Medical Committee for the Defense of Ethiopia playing a central role. The new organisation’s program- me, like that of its predecessors, concentrated on the raising of funds for medical supplies to be sent to East Africa. In one of the early United Aid for Ethiopia press releases Dr. P. M. H. Savory, the society’s treasurer, announced that the national headquarters would shortly be sending two tons of medical supplies to Ethiopia.121 By April the group had set a $5,000 goal.122 Unfortunately the total Easter Sunday collection from the larger Harlem churches amounted to only $82.39, eighty per cent of which came from the Rev. William Lloyd lines’ St.

James Presbyterian Church.123 Another Sunday’s col- lection amounted to $20,134 United Aid for Ethiopia claimed to be the only organisation endorsed by both Tasfaye and Shaw. In April Shaw gave his approval to still another fund-raising endeavour, the Pittsburgh Courier’s projected " Ethiopian Role of Honour."125 Under this plan persons who sent money for Ethiopian relief would have their contribu- tions acknowledged in the Courier as well as their names inscribed in a special volume. The war ended before much money could be obtained through this source, but even as late as June 6, 1936, contributions ranging from 6 cents to $10.00, with average donations varying between 25 cents and $1.00 were being received.126

It would seem that by Spring the whole Ethiopian relief scene in the United States was as bogged down as the Emperor’s military force was in Ethiopia. Anyone hoping for great things from American Aid for Ethiopia would have been sorely disappointed. In January the executive committee of American Aid for Ethiopia had decided to embark on a two-fold campaign: persuading the Red Cross to contribute $10,000 per month for the duration of the war from reserve funds and appealing to the general public for $500,000.127 Neither amounted to much. Finally in April, after a change of publicity directors, American Aid for Ethiopia sent out printed folders appealing for additional funds. A month later the Italians were in control of Addis Ababa.

What, besides its November shipment, had American Aid for Ethiopia accomplished during its existence? It had forwarded an unsolicited contribution of 10,000 digitalis tablets from the Minneapolis manufacturer, F. A. Upsher-Smith.128 In late January it had cabled $1,000 to the Ethiopian Red Cross; in late April it had sent a second $1,000 contribution.129 Once Ethiopia had been defeated, the problem was not what to do with surplus funds but rather how to meet the organisation’s $94.90 deficit.130

All told, the exact amount of money raised for Ethio- pian relief is rather nebulous. The American Red Cross transmitted a total of $15,020.45 for Ethiopian relief $3,000 of which was given to the International Red Cross Committee to meet expenses in connection with the crisis.131 The Red Cross sum far exceeded the com- bined total of all Ethiopian-oriented aid groups. One key, but seldom noted, source of money was continued missionary support. The Sudan Interior Mission, for instance, reported having remitted in 1935 between $3,000 and $4,000 for the Ethiopian Red Cross.132

Certainly the State Department had not encouraged Ethiopian assistance projects. It made little difference that the American Charge d’Affaires in Addis Ababa had informed Secretary of State Cordell Hull:

… it is inevitable that we should be embarrassingly conspicuous by our non-participation in Red Cross work through purely local missionary volunteers. It is also difficult to explain insignificance of funds raised in America.133

The unofficial State Department attitude remained one of benevolent neglect. Surely, reasoned one Department of State official, the United States "… should not be expected to do more than a moderate amount in situ- ations which arise as far away as Africa."134

It was not surprising that the general population wasn’t overly excited about potential American relief contributions. In the words of one Red Cross-paid historian:
The muffled, rhythmic beat of distant war drums in the mid-thirties all but failed to reach the listless ears of a self-centred preoccupied American public. The harbingers of World War II wreaked their havoc upon uncounted innocent thousands while, the American people remained generally apathetic. Insulation, and not participation, was the factor motivating American action. Isolationism was per- mitted to run rampant.135

Interested though Americans may have been as the East African crisis developed, once the war broke out their attention shifted to European-related incidents.136

Negroes, on the other hand, supported Ethiopia to an even greater degree than this paper has shown. Most probably blacks in Los Angeles, Kansas City, Atlanta and New Orleans were as concerned about meeting Ethiopia’s needs as were their brothers in Chicago and Pittsburgh. Negroes in southern Alabama organised a Friends of Ethiopia chapter.137 In January a group from Hampton Institute gave $53.00 to American Aid for Ethiopia.138 The Ethiopian Aiding Club of East Chicago, Indiana, checked with the State Department to verify John H. Shaw’s reliability.139

Given the circumstances in America, black accomplish- ments become even more impressive. In the 1930s Southern Negroes, seventy per cent of the nation’s twelve million Afro-Americans, had no political power. That of Northern Negroes still had not become manifest; only one Negro, Representative Arthur Mitchell of Chicago, sat in the United States Congress. In the econo- mic realm an already bad situation was made worse by the depression. Then, too, there were other campaigns besides Ethiopian relief which competed for contribu- tions: efforts to influence Congressional passage of the Costigan-Wagner ant-lynching bill, continuing legal defence manoeuvres in support of the Scottsboro boys and Angelo Herndon, and NAACP-initiated suits against the universities of Maryland, Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee to gain admission for qualified black students. Time and again during the Ethiopian crisis of 1935-6 Negro critics of excessive pro-Ethiopian involve- ment would point to the need for action at home, with the lynch situation particularly in mind.

At the beginning of the war blacks as well as whites felt that this country’s Afro-American population would fer- vently support the Ethiopian cause. The performance failed to meet the expectation. Perhaps pressures from white Americans were responsible for a part of the answer. In Mobile, Negroes were arrested for picketing Italian-American-owned grocery stores.140 What would have been the attitude of officials in the deep South toward Negroes organising on a grand scale? Nonethe- less, in the final analysis the very real poverty of Black Americans was the most effective deterrent against the raising of large amounts of money for Ethiopia.

Blacks were unsuccessful in gaining significant white American material support for Ethiopia. Some black- led organisations made little effort to gain white backing. Although a number of Negro societies co-operated with American Aid for Ethiopia, the extent of Afro-American influence on the parent body is debatable. Early in April, 1936, one of the four Negroes on the executive committee, Charles H. Houston, announced his resignation, explaining that he felt himself to be little more than window dressing.141 As for the Red Cross, the less said the better. It is difficult to imagine blacks actively backing, much less leading, Red Cross programmes in view of the latent Negro antipathy toward that organisation.

Black American pro-Ethiopian activities had taken several forms: protests and appeals to the Italian govern- ment, the League of Nations, the English government and American officials, in addition to manifestations of support which did little more than affirm the commit- ment of the individuals involved; anti-Italian boycotts; and campaigns to raise both financial contributions and armed volunteers. Temporarily Ethiopian concerns had gained a prominent place in Afro-American cultural and religious life. And then the Emperor was defeated.

The Ethiopian affair had been a definite factor in the education of American blacks. Not only did Negroes gain a new awareness of what hitherto had been a remote African land, they also began to follow with increased interest American policies, international as well as domestic. In regard to military recruitment for Ethiopian service a number of writers who were disturbed by the State Department’s ban pointed to the irony of the United States Government, a government which con- doned lynching, not to mention economic exploitation through share cropping and the lien system, disfranchisement and office exclusion, and de jure segregation in schools, on trains, and at drinking fountains, threatening to deprive Afro-Americans of their citizenship rights. When Cordell Hull forced the Standard Vacuum Oil Company to abandon its Ethiopian concession, a Pitts- burgh Courier reporter commented . . . (the deed)" has caused more discussion among Negroes than any single act of the State Department in the history of the race since freedom."142 This was one of the few occasions when large numbers of Negroes denounced an American foreign policy decision. The Rev. James Eichelberger, for example, was almost alone in criticising the neutrality legislation as an abnegation of American responsibility.143 The war enthusiasm resulted in at least two additional ends: the growth of pan-African sentiment and the building of black pride. The first point, as expressed by a New York Age columnist, appeared to be self-evident to many:

. . . Any conflict which arose from such causes as those which are behind the Italian-Ethiopian crisis would be nothing more or less than a clash of races with one fighting oppression on the part of the other. And the success or defeat of the supposedly weaker race would affect other members of that race all over the globe.144

The second item, that of pride in the race, involved more than immediately meets the eye. In January 1936, Dr. Huggins told a Mobile audience that Negroes in the United States might be forced to use Ethiopia and her emergency as a means toward their own salvation.145 What did he mean? Could he not have meant that the activism involved in aiding Ethiopia nourished a sense of self-help and pride in self?

Ralph Matthews, writing in October 1935, told of Negroes in movie theatres laughing at newsreels showing pictures of barefoot black Ethiopian soldiers.146 The blame, claimed Matthews, lay in part with Hollywood for having educated Americans, black and white, that a coloured man on the screen should be laughed at. " Our education is all wrong," lamented the columnist. " We have been taught when to laugh and now we must be taught when to cry . . ." The Ethiopian experience worked toward this end.


1  Amsterdam News (New York), March 2, 1935, p. 3.

2  Amsterdam News (New York), March 9, 1935, p. 1.

3  New York Times, July 25, 1935, p. 11.

4  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 765.84/354, Ethiopian Research Council, Information Series No. 1, April 27, 1935.

5  Pittsburgh Courier, March 9, 1935, section 2, p. 1.

6  Afro-American (Baltimore), December 28, 1935, p. 6.

7  Afro-American (Baltimore), August 10, 1935, p. 10.

8  Brice Harris, Jr., The United States and the Italo-Ethiopian Crisis (Stan- ford, California: Stanford University Press, 1964), p. 30.

9  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 384.ll/71/2, Memorandum "American Nationals in Ethiopia," attached to memo from Wallace Murray to William Phillips, June 25, 1935.

10  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.51/43, "Investigation re: John H. Shaw," July 8, 1935.

11  New York Times, July 19, 1935, p. 3.

12  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.51/50, Department of State to American Legation in Addis Ababa, March 7, 1936.

13  Afro-American (Baltimore), February 23, 1935.

14  Ibid.

15  Afro-American (Baltimore), March 2, 1935, p. 1.

16  Afro-American (Baltimore), July 6, 1935, p. 10.

17  Afro-American (Baltimore), July 20, 1935, p. 1.

18  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/25, Memorandum of Paul H. Ailing, Division of Near Eastern Affairs, September 5, 1935.

19  Pittsburgh Courier, July 13, 1935, p. 2.

20  Pittsburgh Courier, July 20, 1935, p. 4.

21  Pittsburgh Courier, July 27, 1935, p. 1.

22  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 765.84/646, A. R. Burr to P. H. Ailing, July 23, 1935.

23  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/25, Memorandum of Paul H. Ailing, September 5, 1935.

24  Afro-American (Baltimore), August 3, 1935, p. 8; Pittsburgh Courier, August 10, 1935, p. 4.                                             ‘

25  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, Memorandum of Paul H. Ailing, September 5, 1935.

26  Ibid,

27  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/18, A. R. Burr to R. C. Bannerman, September 3, 1935.

28  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 765.84/456, Robert F. S. Harris to Henry A. Lardner, July 1, 1935.

29  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/18, A. R. Burr to R. C. Bannerman, September 3, 1935.

30  New York Times, July 16, 1935, p. 5.

31  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/18, A. R. Burr to R. C. Bannerman, September 3, 1935.

32  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/18-" C," "Exhibit C" attached to the correspondence of A. R. Burr to R. C. Bannerman, September 3, 1935.

33  New York Times, July 22, 1935, p. 9.

34  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/18, A. R. Burr to R. C. Bannerman, September 3, 1935.

35  Ibid.

36  New York Times, July 8, 1935, p. 1.

37  Afro-American (Baltimore), August 24, 1935, p. 5.

38  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 765.84/1220, C. Van H. Engert to Secretary of State Hull, August 20, 1935.

39  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/18-" A," "Exhibit A" attached to the correspondence of A. R. Burr to R. C. Bannerman, September 3,1935.

40  Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, Annual Report 1935 (New York, New York: Federal Council of Churches), p. 37.

41  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 765.84/929, "Agenda for the Provisional Committee on the Ethiopian Crisis" attached to memo from Wallace Murray, August 17, 1935.

42  New York Times, August 21, 1935, p. 4.

43  New York Age, August 31, 1935, p. 3.

44  New York Times, September 5, 1935, p. 14.

45  Afro-American (Baltimore), September 7, 1935, p. 3.

46  American Red Cross Archives, 979.01, Mrs. Katherine Lewis to James McClintock, et ah, August 29, 1935.

47  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/18, A. R. Burr to R. C. Bannerman, September 3, 1935.

48  American Red Cross Archives, 979.6, from letter from the Committee for Ethiopia attached to letter from James K. McClintock to Robert F. S. Harris, September 14, 1935.

49  Ibid.

50  Afro-American (Baltimore), July 27, 1935, p. 7. Also see National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 765.84/965, " Copy of petition presented to the Secretary-General of the League of Nations by Dr. Willis N. Huggins, Executive Secretary of the International Council of Friends of Ethiopia."

51   National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.51/40, Premiss Gilbert (Geneva) to Secretary of State Hull, August 15, 1935.

52  Library of Congress, NAACP Collection (Administrative File, Subject File: " Ethiopia, August 1935 "), mimeographed letter from the Imperial Ethiopian Legation in London to the Friends of Ethiopia in the United States of America, August 7, 1935.

53   New York Times, October 6, 1935, p. 29.

54  Claude A. Barnett Collection (privately owned, Chicago), W. Martin to

Associated Negro Press of America, August 19, 1935.

55  Claude A. Barnett Collection (privately owned, Chicago), W. Martin to C. Barnett, September 19, 1935.

56  New York Times, September 10, 1935, p. 13.

57  New York Times, August 5, 1935, p. 4.

58  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/17, memo of Wallace Murray, August 28, 1935.

59  Ibid.

60  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/18, A. R. Burr to R. C. Bannerman, September 3, 1935.

61  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/17, memo of Wallace Murray, August 28, 1935.

62  American Red Cross Archives, 041. Ethiopian Red Cross – cc 979.01, James McClintock, " Confidential Report on the Italian-Ethiopian Situation," December 2, 1935.

63  Ibid.

64  Ibid.

65  New York Times, October 21, 1935, p. 12.

66  New York Times, October 7, 1935, p. 7.

67  New York Times, October 10, 1935, p. 17.

68  American Red Cross Archives, James McClintock, " Confidential Report on the Italian-Ethiopian Situation," December 2, 1935, op. cit.

69  New York Times, October 10, 1935, p. 17.

70  Ibid.

71  New York Times, October 5, 1935, p. 6.

72  Ibid.

73  American Red Cross Archives, 979.01 – Ethiopia, James McClintock, " Confidential statement on the Italian-Ethiopian Situation, "October 10, 1935.

74  New York Times, October 14, 1935, p. 8.

75  New York Times, October 13, 1935, p. 32.

76  New York Times, November 27, 1935, p. 13.

77  New York Times, November 17, 1935, p. 38.

78  Library of Congress, NAACP Collection (Administrative File, Subject File: "Ethiopia, September-December 1935"), Willis N. Huggins to Walter White, October 28, 1935.

79  Pittsburgh Courier, December 7, 1935, p. 10.

80  Library of Congress, NAACP Collection (Administrative File, Subject File: " Ethiopia, September-December 1935 "), letterhead of the Friends of Ethiopia in America (Willis N. Huggins to Walter White, November 8, 1935).

81   National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/581/2, Confidential Memorandum of the London Embassy of the United States, November 2, 1935.

82  New York Age, November 23, 1935, p. 1.

83  Afro-American (Baltimore), December 14, 1935, p. 12.

84  American Red Cross Archives, 900.02-American Aid for Ethiopia, Letterhead of American Aid for Ethiopia, William J. Schieffelin to Admiral Cary T. Grayson, January 6, 1936.

85  Pittsburgh Courier, October 5, 1935, p. 4.

86  New York Age, October 26, 1935, p. 1,

87  New York Age, November 30, 1935, p. 1.

88  New York Age, January 11, 1936, p. 3.

89  American Red Cross Archives, 979.523, Dr. William Leo Hansberry, " Memorandum for the American Red Cross," November 21, 1935.

90  American Red Cross Archives, 979.523, James K. McClintock to Dr. William Leo Hansberry, December 19, 1935.

91  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/66, Memo of Wallace Murray, November 23, 1935.

92  American Red Cross Archives, Dr. William Leo Hansberry, " Memor- andum for the American Red Cross," November 23, 1935, op. cit.

93  Ibid.

94  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/69, Memo of Wallace Murray, December 6, 1935.

95  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/77, Wallace Murray to R. Walton Moore, December 26, 1935.

96  American Red Cross Archives, 979.21, Ernest J. Swift to Max Huber, February 14, 1936.

97  Ibid.

98  American Red Cross Archives, 900.02, Memorandum of the Executive Committee of American Aid for Ethiopia, January 3, 1936, enclosed in a letter from William J. Schieffelin to Admiral Cary T. Grayson, Janu- ary 6, 1936.

99  New York Times, December 15, 1935.

100  American Red Cross Archives, Ernest J. Swift to Max Huber, February 14, 1936, op. cit.

101   New York Age, December 21, 1935, p. 1.

102  New York Age, January 4, 1936, p. 1.

103  Journal and Guide (Norfolk), January 25, 1936, p. 4.

104  Afro-American (Baltimore), January 4, 1936, p. 12.

105  Library of Congress, NAACP Collection (Administrative File, Subject File: "Ethiopia, 1936"), Harwood B. Catlin to C. H. Houston, Janu- ary 15, 1936.

106  New York Times, December 25, 1935, p. 3; New York Age, February 22, 1936, p. 7.

107  New York Age, February 22, 1936, p. 7.

108   Chicago Defender, February 1, 1936 p. 12

109  Ibid.

110  Ibid.

111   Interview with Dr. Julian H. Lewis, December 12, 1971.

112  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.51/50, Cornelius Van H. Engert to Cordell Hull, December 14, 1935.

113  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.51/50, Department of State to the American Legation in Addis Ababa, March 7, 1936.

114  Ibid.

115  Ibid.

116  Pittsburgh Courier, April 18, 1936, section 2, p. 9.

117  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.51/50, Department of State to the American Legation in Addis Ababa, March 7, 1936.

118  Journal and Guide (Norfolk), April 4 1936 p 4.

119  Pittsburgh Courier, April 18, 1936, section 2, p. 9.

120  Ibid.

121  New York Age, April 4, 1936, p. 12.

122  New York Age, April 18, 1936 p. 1

123  Ibid.

124  New York Age, May 2, 1936, p. 2.

125  Pittsburgh Courier, April 18, 1936, p. 1.

126  Pittsburgh Courier, June 6, 1936, second section, p. 2.

127  American Red Cross Archives, Memorandum and Resolution of the Executive Committee of American Aid for Ethiopia, January 3, 1936, attached to letter from William J. Schieffeliri to Admiral Cary Grayson, January 6, 1936.

128  ibid.

129  American Red Cross Archives, 979.208, Statement of Disbursement of Funds for the Ethiopian Red Cross, April 29, 1936.

130  Library of Congress, NAACP Collection (Administrative File, Subject File: "Ethiopia, 1936,"), Supplementary Statement to May 15, 1936, American Aid for Ethiopia, Inc., Balance Sheet, May 7, 1936.

131  American Red Cross Archives, 979.208, Statement of Disbursement of Funds for the Ethiopian Red Cross, April 29, 1936.

132  Library of Congress, NAACP Collection (Administrative File, Subject File: " Ethiopia, 1936"), Minutes of the Executive Committee Meeting of American Aid for Ethiopia, February 15, 1936.

133  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/76, Engert to Secretary of State, December 23, 1935.

134  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 884.142/77, Wallace Murray to Judge (R. Walton) Moore, December 26, 1935.

135  Robert Keith Murray, "A Study of American Public Opinion on the American National Red Cross from Newspapers and Periodicals, 1881- 1948," The History of the American National Red Cross, Vol. XXX, (mimeographed), (Washington, D.C.: American National Red Cross, 1950).

136  American Red Cross Archives, James McClintock, "Confidential Report on the Italian-Ethiopian Situation," December 2, 1935, op. cit.

137  New York Times, December 3, 1935, p. 14.

138  Library of Congress, NAACP Collection (Administrative File, Subject File: " Ethiopia, 1936"), Minutes of the Executive Committee Meeting of American Aid for Ethiopia, January 30, 1936.

139  National Archives, State Department Decimal Files 1930-1939, 702.8411/21, Mrs. L, C.Ellington to U.S.S. Department, March 3, 1936.

140  Pittsburgh Courier, November 2, 1935, p. 2.

141  Library of Congress, NAACP Collection (Administrative File, Subject File: "Ethiopia, 1936"), Charles H. Houston to American Aid for Ethiopia, April 3, 1936.

142  Pittsburgh Courier, September 12, 1935, p. 5.

143  Pittsburgh Courier, September 21, 1935, second section, p. 10.

144  New York Age, March 9, 1935, p. 8.

145  Pittsburgh Courier, January 11, 1936, p. 2.

146  Afro-American (Baltimore), October 12, 1935, p. 6.

A Note on Ethiopian Chess

By Richard Pankhurst

Ethiopia deserves an honourable place in the great history of chess which appears to have been traditionally popular in court circles and among the nobility. The game was known in Amharic as Sentherej, a name borrowed from the Arabs who called it Shatranj, a corruption of the Persian Chatrang, itself derived from the Sanskrit chaturanga.

In the early sixteenth century the Emperor Lebua Dengel (1508-1540) is said to have played chess as well as cards with the Venetian artist Gregorio or Hieronimo Bicini, as was related by the Ethiopian ecclesiastic, Brother Thomas of Ganget, in his conversations with the Italian Alessandro Zorzi.1

Sahle Sellassie, the early nineteenth century King of Shoa, was another notable chess player. The French travellers Comkes and Tamisier, who visited Ethiopia in 1835-37, relate that he used to play in the evening with one of his courtiers, who, they allege, always took care to allow his master to win.2 Sahle Sellassie’s habit of playing chess is also referred to in Gabre Sellassie’s chronicle of the reign of Menelik II where it is stated that the latter sovereign declared that his ancestor had prophesied the establishment of Addis Ababa while he was at play, sitting under a tree in the Filwoha area.3

A quarter of a century earlier the British traveller Henry Salt, writing of his visit to Tigre in 1809-10, says that Ras Walde Sellassie, the ruler of that province, was a great chess man. He points out, however, that the game then played in Ethiopia ” differed more from ours than we at first supposed.” Ethiopian chess in fact was the old game as it had existed in other parts of the world before the changes which occurred in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

In the olden days there was no Queen, instead there was a piece called farz or firz, also known as farzan, farzin and farzie, signifying a ” counsellor,” ” minister ” or ” general.” The name was subsequently Latinized into farzie or fercia, and rendered into French as fierce or fiege, after which it is supposed to have been called vierge, or ‘virgin,’ and is thought by extension to have become a woman and hence a Queen. Another theory was that as the pawn was promoted on reaching the eighth square to become a farz, this piece was conceived of like the dame in draughts, and for this reason became known as a Queen. The farz traditionally moved only one square diagonally and was consequently the weakest piece on the board, the Queen’s present immense power only being acquired in the middle of the fifteenth century.4
Salt suggests that in early nineteenth century Ethiopia the game was still more or less played as of old for he says: ” the Queen moves diagonally, and only one square at a time.” He adds that ” the Castles either have not the same power in the European games, or the players do not make use of them so frequently, nor do they seem to value a Castle as much as a Knight.”

The Emperor Theodore’s friend and adviser, Walter Plowden,5 who wrote half a century later, has left a more detailed account of the game as he saw it played in the middle of the nineteenth century. He says that the chessboard, which had of course 64 squares as in Europe, was generally made of a piece of red cloth with squares marked out by strips of ivory black sewn at equal distances. This fact would suggest that the game, or at least the type of chessboard, was introduced after the thirteenth century because before that time the board is said to have been of only one colour. The chessmen, Plowden continues, were made of ivory, hippopotamus tusk or horn. Those of ivory or hippopotamus tusk were ” ponderous and massive,” while those of horn were much lighter. All, however, were simply made, without ornament or fancy work, their differences ” being just sufficient to mark the distinction of the pieces.”

Describing the powers and arrangements of the pieces he explains that the derr or Castles, stood at each corner of the board and moved exactly like Castles in other countries. Next to them, as elsewhere, stood the Knights who corresponded exactly to Knights as he knew them. Next to them came the pheel, or Bishop. This term was borrowed from the Arabic fil, a variant of the Persian pil, the word for elephant. According to Plowden this piece moved obliquely, like an ordinary Bishop, but could only advance over three squares including its own; it could not stop at the King’s second square, even if vacant; it could, however, pass over any interposing piece on that square or any other.
Turning to the centre of the pieces Plowden states that the King, or Negus, had the same power as in Europe but was placed slightly differently, the two Kings facing each other exactly instead of being on different colours.

The furz (or counsellor above described) stood next to the King. He confirms that it had only the very limited power of moving one square in any direction, and could only take obliquely. The pawns, or medaks, were moved, he said, as in Europe and there was no obligation to take them. On reaching the eighth square they acquired the powers of a furz as was the case, as we have seen, in the old game.

Discussing the technique of the game, Plowden says, that it started in a “a singular manner” and one which often enabled the good player to gain a decisive advantage. Both parties, he says, moved as many pieces as they could lay their hands on, presumably not in alternate order but simultaneously, until the first pawn was taken. Though at this stage of the game a stranger might suppose there was great confusion the player in fact keenly watched the moves of his opponent, and changed his tactics accordingly, frequently withdrawing the moves he had already made and substituting others so as to be in the most favourable position at the moment of the first take whether his own or his adversary’s. After the first piece was taken the game proceeded more or Ethiopian Chess—less as in Europe. The convention was that the move was not considered settled until the player had placed the piece on the square and removed his hands from it.

Another distinctive feature of Ethiopian chess was that all forms of checkmate were not considered equally honourable. Checkmate by Castles or Knights we are told was ” considered unworthy of the merest tyro,” that is to say these pieces, though assisting in throwing the net round the enemy, were supposed not to deal the fatal stroke though the use of the Knight was ” just endurable.”
Checkmate with a single Bishop was ” tolerably good,” but with two was applauded. Mating with one, two, or especially three or four pawns was considered the ne plus ultra of the game.

Checkmate was considered particularly meritorious if the adversary had not been denuded of all his superior pieces, and in
fact it was'”almost necessary to leave him with two,” for it was customary for him when reduced to one, say Bishop or Knight, to start counting his moves, it being expected that the King should be mated before he had made seven moves with that piece. This piece moreover, could not be taken as the game was considered drawn as soon as one side had lost all its capital pieces without having been checkmated. Obstruction by the last of these pieces frequently made it impossible to finish the game in the time allowed or obliged the player to ” give an ignominious mate ” with a Castle of Knight which was ” hailed almost as a triumph by the foe.” A good player, therefore, found it advisable to leave his adversary two good pieces, such as a Castle and Bishop or Castle and Knight, for if he left him a furz and Bishop, for example, he would probably be forced to take one in self-defence.

1 O G S Crawford ” Ethiopian Itineraries,” 1958, “p. 21.
2 E Combes arid M. Tamisier, Voyage en Abyssinie, 1838, Vol III, p. 17.
3 Guebre Sellassie, Chronicle du Regne de Menelik II, 1930. Vol.. p, 233. Ill, p. 111.
4 George Viscount Valentia, Voyages and Travels, 1811, Vol.
5 W. O. Plowden, Travels in Abyssinia, 1868, pp. 149-51.

Snatch and Run or Marriage by Abduction [Telfo bekisE] (Part 1)



Snatch and Run, or Marriage by Abduction," was performed in Addis Ababa
at the Haile Sellassie I National Theatre during the Ethiopian
Christmas week, January, 1963.

It was directed by Ato Tesfae Gessesse, one of the promising young Ethiopian men of the theatre. The cast was as follows :—

Wondayehu ………………………….Merrine Jembere Belay
   Gelagle ……………………………….Getachew Debalke
   Bezabih Tori …………………………Haile Worku
   Aregga ………………………………..Negash Zeleke
   Yesahak ………………………………(a) Makonnen Amena (b) Tesfae Gessesse
   Taffesech ……………………………..(a) Mulumebet Haile Mariam (b) Asnefech Worku
   Negadras ………………………………Workineh Birru Fikre Ayele
   Hapte ………………………………….Lemma Worke
   Fitawrari Merrine Tekwas …………..Makonnen Abebe
   Wolde-Cherkos ……………………..Sahlou Ezineh


 Wondayehu Merrine, Gelagle, Bezabih Tori, Aregga, Yesahak:

Childhood and school-day friends, all eligible bachelors of the modern generation.

Taffesech: A girl, 19 years of age.

Negadras Workineh Birru: A rich merchant and the father of Taffesech.

Habte : Servant to the Negadras.

FlTAWRARI MERRINE Tekwas: A patriot and the father of Wondayehu.

Wolde-Cherkos: Filawrari's servant.



Act I—

Scene 1—Saturday Afternoon, the living room.

Scene 2—After Lunch, the same room.

Act II— After Supper, the bedroom.

Act III— Sunday Morning, the living room.

Time : Present-day Ethiopia.

Place : About 30 Km. from Addis Ababa.

ACT I—Scene 1

When the curtain rises we see the living room of Fitawrari Merrine Tekwas' villa about thirty kilometres
from the city of Addis Ababa. Part of the country home is used by his
son, Wondayehu, as a week-end vacation retreat, especially in the
disagreeable Addis rainy season. His friends often use the house as a
retreat and feel per­fectly at home. The living room which we now see
appears comfortable and inviting. The presence of a record player and
telephone indicate not only the comfortable wealth of the owner but is
also a witness to the extent modern civilization is invading the
peaceful Ethiopian countryside.

the left we see a huge mirror set in a heavy gilt frame. On the
opposite stage is an impressive portrait of a man whose hair is done in
the traditional
" Gofere" style which can only be managed by the traditional wooden comb. A " mandolier " or
cartridge belt passes round his waist twice, then crosses his broad
chest and passes over his shoulder. He wears sandals and puttees. From
his left ear huge male golden earrings are suspended. In his left hand
he holds a light machine gun, while his right hand rests on the butt of
a pistol. He stands proud, legs apart, with knitted brows and eyes
staring boldly. Obviously this man was a great Arbagna (leader of the
the Italian occupation and a crack shot with the pistol. A coat hanger
stands near the door on the left with a hat on it. Through this door
the bedroom and dining room may be reached by a corridor, as well as
the kitchen and bathroom.

most imposing architectural feature of the living room is a large bay
window which fills the back wall, through which the audience sees the
top of eucalyptus trees. The sky is cloudy and overcast but the room is
gay and brightly decorated with paper buntings. The electric bulbs are
gaily decorated with hats and skirts of bunting, indicating a festive
event. A large assortment of bottles is visible on the bar.

It is a Saturday during the late rainy season. It is almost 1 pm.
A few rays of sun break through the window and stretch across the floor
of the living room. Into this setting, Wondayehu Merrine enters from
stage left whistling the latest hit song. He almost dances rather than
walks and slams the bedroom door with a bang. Wondayehu is short,
lightly built and looks decep­tively young for his age. Coat less and tie less
with his shirt sleeves rolled up, he appears ready to tackle a job. He
wears fashionable shoes and bright socks. Wearing a super-modern
haircut with the front part zooming forward like the horn of a rhino,
he looks like a wild bull ready to charge. Nevertheless, Wondayehu
Merrine appears preoccupied. He bites his nails, studies the room but
is lost in thought.

Wondayehu : Well, what more to do ? (Turns toward the bedroom?) The sheets have been changed. (Nervously searching for a bunch of keys in his pocket, he extricates them) Yes
! This might be for the dining room. The rats alone are punishment
enough for the prisoner ! An ideal prison ! I told that Wolde-Cherkos
to get poison and fill up the rat holes. Who can make him listen to
anything ? This is for the bedroom. Good ! Now—have I forgotten
anything ? Drinks ? (He kneels down, examines the bar and hurriedly counts the bottles) And cigarettes ? We have plenty.

(Standing up with flowery declamatory gestures, he addresses a mythical audience.) The
bridal chamber is prepared. The prison is ready. What more do you want,
my brothers ? Everything is spick and span ! So God speed you, good
luck, and may you return gloriously victorious !

whistles and hums and starts the record player which plays a popular
song. Dancing to the bedroom door, he suddenly remembers it is locked,
backs up, pulls the key from his pocket. When he finally opens the
door, a corner of the bed can be seen. He re-enters the living room
straightening his tie. He looks at himself in the mirror, and seeing
the reflection of his father's picture from the opposite side, he
musingly begins to speak to it.)

Well, Dad ! What do you think ? We are proving we are men today ! You're going to have the surprise of your life ! (Worriedly he looks at his watch.) They should be here by now. (The front door bell rings.) Right on cue !

(He dances gleefully and quickly draws the curtains on the front window.) Welcome conquerors ! Lion-hearted ones, come in, come in ! Welcome home ! Come, all is ready ! (He
unlocks the door and opens it wide. When he sees the stranger standing
at the door his face immediately registers disappointment.)

Oh ! It's you !

unexpected guest is Gelagle. He is of average height, casual and
completely at ease. His face carries the dignified expression of the
Greek philosopher, Socrates. Although rather homely he has an engaging
personality. We know immediately he is on the plump side because his
shirt front does not button. In addition, we know he is a "philosopher
" because
his tie is askew, his shirt wrinkled and his over-long trousers
ill-fitted. All in all, it would appear that his clothes have never
been ironed. He is badly in need of a shave, hat mishapened, pockets
bulging with books, wearing glasses, and holding a raincoat and bag in

: Hi, Wondayehu ! How are you ? What's the matter ? You look annoyed.
Anything wrong ? I hope I'm not gate-crashing into a private party. (When he takes off his hat, we suspect he is an intellectual for he is quite bald.)

Wondayehu : I thought you had gone to Dessie. (He closes the door and receives Gelagle's belongings.)

: Changed my mind. Infact, I didn't expect to be coming here but I
couldn't stand those damned rains in Addis. They got on my nerves.
Nowadays, the rain lurks behind the clouds ready to pounce like an
enemy. It waits until you're ready to leave the office then maliciously

Wondayehu : Well, wear your raincoat and you needn't suffer. (Turning his hat in his hand.) You still have this same old hat ? (He peers out through the curtains and then looks at his watch.)

Gelagle : Stop moralizing. (Places luggage on the table) You're all the same. " Why did you go bald ? " " Why don't you have your shirts washed ? " et etcetera. Amen, I say,. Amen ! (He stretches out comfortably on the sofa, closing his eyes) Thank
God for the never questioning countryside! When one gets bored with the
noise and din of shallow city life, there is always this cathedral of
therapeutic recuperation.

Stop complaining. We advise you for your own good. You're overplaying
the role of the philosopher. You're still young. Get out like the
others, wash yourself, dress decently—you would literally rock the
heart of any damned girl or woman in town. You're always complaining
you can't find the right one, the one and only. Well go on, go on
meditating and hesitating and you will die hesitating. What do you
expect at your age. You can't grow horns!

Well, leave mine alone. So, what about you or that great Bezabih? Have
you two been so successful ? Have either of you found the girl of your
dreams? You and that Bezabih who dreams of saving humanity and can't
sleep because of it—you're just jealous of what I've got.

I can assure you it was an accident. You did nothing on your part to
deserve it. How is she? Your Belaynesh ? I understand you're at it

Same old thing. One reason why I'm here. She can't live with me and she
can't live without me. She tells me she does not love me, that she
hates me, and when she does not find me by her side the flood of her
tears is ten times more than the downpour of the month of July.

Wondayehu: Have a drink. You need to cool off. (He pours a glass from the bottle) Yesahak says as long as you don't hate whiskey it doesn't matter if others hate you.

Gelagle: Not now. After dinner. I hope you'll have some chicken watt for dinner.

Wondayehu: (Looking at his watch.) Well,
if she loves you that much why doesn't she marry you and have done with
it. Don't tell me you don't know her well enough after running after
her for four years.

Gelagle : You mean to say why don't / marry her ?

Wondayehu: You're still not civilized. Marry! What difference does it make whether you marry her or she marries you. It's all the same. That is what we say.

Gelagle: We? And pray say, who are we?

Wondayehu: We? That is—us. Myself, Bezabih, Yesahak and Aregga.

Gelagle: As long as you don't include me in that list you can be as mad as you like.

Wondayehu : When the day comes, when the day of action arrives, who will want a philosopher like you, Gelagle? If you were a man you
would have abducted Belaynesh a long time ago and married her. A
marriage by abduction! A romantic marriage fitting for a philosopher

Thank you for your kind advice! As one would say in the new Anglicized
Amharic: " Your advice is supported by a walking stick of brotherly
sentiment." But, when I marry, / will marry her, and she will not marry me. And when I marry it will be in strict accordance with the practices and traditions of our fathers.

Wondayehu: We all know you are a radical tradi­tionalist! A reactionary obstacle to modern civilization. (Laughs.) But
what fun it might be! You the warrior abductor, Belaynesh the screaming
abductee! Me, Bezabih Tori, Aregga, Yesahak—the best men! A real

(Opening his eyes and sitting up.) You mean to tell me that I should
inform her in advance saying: " On such and such a date, at such and
such a time, I am going to abduct you at such and such a place!" Don't
make me laugh, my friend! (He stands.)

You don't understand my meaning. If you abduct her by prior
consultation and agreement, it would spoil everything. It would no
longer be in the tradition of our fathers, no longer in the hallowed
custom of our country.

Gelagle : The ancient customs of our country must be respected, you know.

Quite true! The ancient customs must be respected. Then why not
abduction? It has been used by our fathers, grandfathers, great
grand­fathers and forefathers. They never complained—it served them
well. There is only one difference between our times and theirs. In
those days men were men and women were women! The country was not
suffering from an over-abundance of philosophers like yourself, my

Gelagle: (Noticing the picture on the wall.) But
all joking aside, how is the old man? How is your father? How I enjoy
sitting at his feet listening to the stories of the good old days.
Those days of great deeds, romance and real manhood! Do you think we
are made of the same stuff as they were? I doubt it. How I envy them!
How lucky they were! The kind of cleverness of today which is called
education didn't tie them hand and foot. They were free agents! Is
Fitawrari home?

Wondayehu: (Looking through the window.) Father has gone hunting. He may return Tuesday or Wednes­day, not before.

Gelagle : (Noticing for the first time the gay decora­tions.) By gosh! What's all this? This Gala Field Day.

Wondayehu: It is a reception. We are abducting a beautiful young lady from town.

Still the clown. People ask you serious questions and you go on joking.
As long as that roman­tic Bezabih Tori is still around, I can't expect
you to talk sensibly—even for a joke. I remember when I was here about
a month ago, the joke of the day was something quite different. What
was it . . . ?

The programme for today is based on the proposition that we should not
detach ourselves from the roots of our tradition. Our slogan for today
is: " let us stick to our customs, to the ancient customs "— and our
Holy Book of Tradition orders—abduction! Abduction without prior
knowledge on either side. And we have agreed to carry out the spirit of
the ritual literally.

Well, at least you are trying to be con­sistent. There is nothing like
modern consistency with the traditions of the past.

Wondayehu: Stop being funny. I hope you didn't expect to spend the night here.

Well, I certainly didn't come thirty kilometres to listen to your
gibberish about abduction. No, you're quite mistaken. I am here and I
intend to pass the night in this very house.

That's what I was afraid of. " My very fear has come upon me," as the
old proverb goes. Well, you are our honourable guest. Our one and only

Gelagle: What is brewing in this house?

Wondayehu: We are celebrating the Feast of St. Michael. We are going to drink the Tebel (beer).

(The noise of a car
suddenly stopping is heard.) 
Shhhh.. . Shhh . . . Listen! Be silent! (Runs to the window and looks out.) Yes, they are here! They are here! They have come! Well, Ato Gelagle, we must get ready to receive the bride immediately!

 Gelagle : I think you are crazy today. You are not your normal self. (From
outside a whistle given as a signal is heard. Wondayehu opens the main
door and Bezabih Tori enters. He is on the tallish side, head erect and
with a natural inborn pride. He has piercing eyes, high forehead and
the air of a quiet, determined and highly serious young man. In his
dressing habit, he appears only to care for cleanliness and nothing
else. Even then, what­ever he wears looks well on him. He is now
wearing a dark long-sleeved pull-over, but no coat or tie. Bezabih is
not only a man of thought and contemplation, but he puts a strong claim
on being a man of action as well. As a consequence, numberless varied
theories spring from his fertile mind,, some of them outlandish enough.
Many he keeps to himself and many he shares with his friends. His
friends, having taken due notice of his qualities, have nicknamed him
"Bezabih Tori," although Tori is not his father's name. He is so-named
not so much out of derision but of respect and admiration for most of
his friends are his camp followers. The word Tori seems appropriate for
him. It is derived from the English word
" theory" and his name being Bezabih means " too
many theories." According to Bezabih we must combine western
civilization with our own tradition and culture, but we must choose the
good in both of them and combine these two and create a new compound
that will be superior to either. Bezabih thinks that this can and
should be done. As a result of all this thinking and theorizing,
Bezabih has developed premature gray hair.)

Bezabih : Is everything ready ?

Wondayehu: (Saluting in a military fashion.) Yes sir, everything is in order.

Bezabih: Good. (He exits.)

Wondayehu: (Moves around the room distractedly putting on the last touches of the arrangements.)

Gelagle: What's going on? How is it Bezabih sees me here, goes out again as if he has not seen me ?

Wondayehu: Patience my friend and in five minutes you will know everything. (Bezabih returns and stands in the doorway. He calls Aregga off-stage.)

Bezabih : Aregga, bring in the prisoner. Wondayehu, go and help them. (Wondayehu exits without a word.)

the prisoner, enters with head bowed and hands tied at the back by her
own silk handkerchief. Her handbag hangs around her neck, breasts
heaving and eyes bulging in anger. She is pushed into the house by
Aregga followed closely by Wondayehu. Taffesech is a little more than
nineteen years of age, dressed in the most modern style. She is
beautiful in an unobtrusive way with hair done up in a long pony tail.
She wears heavy lipstick, huge earrings, a heavy gold bracelet on her
arm, and nylon stockings. She has no shoes on. But looking at her on
the whole, the man who gets her either by purchase, force or through
legal marriage cannot complain of anything lacking in her. Her guard,
Aregga, is a tall man of few words and serious disposition. He is
dressed soberly by contrast.)

Bezabih: (Angrily) Who removed the gags and bandages from her eyes ?

Aregga : (Calmly.) She promised not to cry or shout.

Bezabih: Take her and lock her up immediately. If she escapes, I am not responsible. I have spoken.

his arms and stands like a statue. Aregga unties her hands with the
help of his teeth; the prisoner exercises her numbed fingers. She
brushes her hair away from her forehead; looks up and glares at Bezabih
with the deadly stare of a poisoned arrow. While doing this
she detaches her handbag from her neck:, clutches it and, without
taking her eyes off Bezabih approaches him slowly, as if she is going
to slap him soundly across the face. Bezabih calmly waits for her,
steeling himself for the worst. She stands in front of him and
deliberately spits in his face. She turns her hack on him and walks
away. Bezabih does not flinch, but he struggles to control the surging
anger visibly rising in him. Suddenly he breaks out in a hoarse cry.

Lock her up.


and Wondayehu take her to her prison which is the dining room. Bezabih
slowly takes out a handker­chief and wipes his face.)

Gelagle, what are you doing here? (Again he is angry.) Well,
Wondayehu! What was the agreement? Didn't we agree that nobody other
than the four of us would be involved in this? No visitors, no matter
who, would be allowed? (There is a pause.) Answer me! Aregga, I call you to witness!

Aregga : Well, Gelagle! Why the surprise, you black­bird of Maskall It's been weeks since we've seen you and now all of a sudden you're here!

We've just begun, Bezabih, and already you are angry. Gelagle is
Gelagle. He is not a visitor, not a stranger. He is one of us!

Bezabih: (Cooling down a bit.) But the idea of it!

An agreement is an agreement! Nobody was to enter the house!

Gelagle: Now that you've mentioned it, I don't like the look of things myself. I don't feel very comfor­table here.

Aregga: Come on, Gelagle. You know how Bezabih is. He never really gets angry at anything specific—its always the idea, or the notion, or the meaning, or the significance of something. I know you would like to go but where ?

Wondayehu: And how? The bus doesn't come till tomorrow afternoon.

Gelagle: Forget me for the moment. What about her? Who is she? She looks like the daughter of Dejatchmatch Awraris, the Rhinoceros!

Wondayehu: Always picking bones, you old hyena!

Aregga: As a matter of fact she's second choice. We thought of someone else but couldn't find her. So this will have to do.

Gelagle : You're not serious ? It's a joke pigeon.

Bezabih : Who cares who she is, what she is ? She is a woman, that is enough.

Aregga: She was coming out of her office, going home for lunch, when we found her.

She must be a commercial school graduate. The daughter of some big
shot. Did you notice the gold bracelet she is wearing?

Aregga: She looks like one of those super-modern gals—educated abroad.

Wondayehu : (Pours out drinks and serving the round. Bezabih refrains.) Well, how about a drink to wash down the nasty business. But what happened to Yesahak? (He goes to the front window and looks out.) Hey, the car is not there!

Aregga: Don't worry, he'll be back soon enough. He knows the way. I'm tired. (He sits down.) Well, Gelagle, it seems you are our only wedding guest. Cheers!

Wondayehu : But remember, no squealing!

Gelagle : You fellows are mad. Insane! I can understand Wondayehu and Yesahak—but you Aregga, I thought you had a little sense.

Don't try to understand something beyond you, Gelagle. But what
happened Aregga? I am dying to know the details of the operation. How
did it go? (He rubs his hands impatiently.)

Aregga: Wait for Yesahak, he'll give you all the tidbits and spicy details.

I tell you gentlemen I do not look with favour on either the idea or
the practice of this madness. It is inconsistent with the nature of
things. (He paces the room.)

Bezabih: (Flaring up.) And we say it is right! The very idea of it is right! What can you do about it?

: Come on, boys, no argument. We have talked this thing over, and,
Bezabih, you have convinced us, all of us, as one man and in one voice
we have accepted it. We are one—so stop this bickering. You and Gelagle
are always arguing over something. But today is not the time for
arguments. Today is a day for laughter, for happiness. Today is a

Aregga : I support your thesis, Wondayehu.

Gelagle: (Resuming again!) So you did it. In broad daylight, on the main street, in the very centre o the city! (Sits down.)

Wondayehu: I'll tell you how it happened … It was easy. We planned it last Sunday, didn't we Aregga.

Aregga: " For those who are sitting on the ground the sky is very near," they say. Go on, we are listening,

You want to mystify everything, Aregga. What else is there to it ? you
said : " Miss, can we be of help? Can "we drop you somewhere? " As Miss
enters the car, you drive away as if you are making for her
house and then turn sharp, and dash to this place. That's that. What is
there to be mysterious about ? There is no mystery at all.

Aregga: To tell the truth, our best ally was the rain. If it had not been raining, she would not have accepted our offer.

Wondayehu: This abduction must have been blessed by the gods!

Aregga : Have you noticed the way she smiles, Bezabih? She's not bad, is she? Not bad at all!

Bezabih : That is not the main thing. That is something irrelevant, unnecessary.

Thank God for the rain. You know, some girls would welcome the chance
to pull up their skirts and show off their legs. They all take
advantage of it.

Aregga: You are speaking of those who wear the traditional Ethiopian dress.

: No, I mean all of them. Whether they wear short European skirts or
the traditional dress, they all want to attract. I know them all. I
know all their secrets, even those reserved for the father confessor!

Say whatever you like, but one thing is certain. That girl has guts!
Bezabih, I must say that you, too, acted in an extraordinarily
civilized way. I hope the good manners continue.

Bezabih: She's a brat! Cheap and ill-mannered! (Makes for the bedroom.) But what difference does it make? Our purpose is something quite different. I'd better wash the spit off my face. (Exits.)

Wondayehu: (Sitting beside Aregga.) Well then, Aregga …

It was easier than I would have dreamt. As soon as she came into the
car, I introduced her to Yesahak and Bezabih. She struck me as the
sweet quiet type, very proper. The trouble came later. As soon as we
passed Shola Michael, began to suspect something. Apparently her house
was in Gulele. (Wondayehu laughs hysterically.)

Gelagle: Well go on—laugh. I don't think it very funny! (The telephone rings.)

Wondayehu: This telephone is possessed of the devil today. This is the seventh time it has rung. (Takes off the receiver and places it off the hook. At this point, a loud knocking is heard from the front door.)

Voice: (A loud, coarse voice is heard violently calling.) Open up! This is the police!

(The three are riveted with fright. Again, another loud knock as if pounded with the butt of a rifle.)

Didn't I tell you? Didn't I tell you this is no laughing matter? Now I hope you get what's coming to you! I hope you enjoy it!

Wondayehu: (Voice faltering.) Shhhh . . . Shhhh . . . Silence! (Aregga takes a quick drink to calm his nerves.

As the door is pounded for the third time, the hinges almost fly off.)

Voice: Open up or we're going to break into the house, you dirty bunch of crooks!

silence descends upon the room. Wonda­yehu's knees are shaking, but
Gelagle, whose prophecy has been proven true, surveys the two sinners
with righteous superiority. Obviously Wondayehu is in agony.)

How could it be the police? I told Wolde-Cherkos to keep a sharp eye
out for the police. Can I help it if Wolde-Cherkose is no zabanya (guard).

goes to the window and after looking to his left and right opens the
door calmly. Yesahak enters with a care-free smile on Ins face, with
zebra striped scratches all over his face. He looks as though he had
been attacked by a blunt-nailed cat. He carries a pair of high-heel
woman's shoes and wears a plastic rain coat. His hair has obviously
been messed up in a fight. An ascot replaces the conventional tie and a
vest embellished by the seven colours of /he rainbow proclaims his
artistic nature. Yesahak is an eager chap and moves c/quickly.)

Yesahak: So this is how you brave fellows face a critical situation, eh? So these are the men we are

counting on! (He laughs.) This is how your courage would show if it were the real police? Eh? (He paces the room and scrutinizes each one.) You—you're
as white as a cadaver! You each deserve a medal for bravery! Not even a
little mouse dies without putting up some struggle! (Gelagle cruelly disappointed sits glumly.)

Wondayehu: (Incensed at the cheap theatrical joke.) Enough! Enough, I say! Enough is enough! (He gets up and exits in anger. Aregga is silent. Me, too, exits without a word. Absolute silence.)

What you have done is cruel. They are worried enough by their stupid
act, and on top of that you play this farcical comedy! I thought it was
really the police and was happy because that would have put an end to
this childish game.

Yesahak: (Acting the man terribly wronged.) All
right! Stop pestering me, all of you! So this is the thanks I get for
all the good work I've done! It was only to help them out that I did
it! (Throws the pair of shoes in anger.) Listen Gelagle, what
did the poet say about such situations? " Can iron become strong if it
is not hammered ? " Isn't that what he said ?

Gelagle: Yes, but the word is "hammered" not shivered!

You're a philosopher, you don't under­stand! In everything in life,
practice makes perfect. The best antidote for fear is practice in being
frightened. Don't you know that? Napoleon used to drink a beaker of
poison early every morning upon getting from his bed—like an aperitif,
you know? This was his precautionary defence against being poisoned by
his enemies.

Gelagle : Yes, I am listening.

Yesahak: And besides—what on earth are you doing here? This is no place for a saintly philosopher! (He takes Gelagle's drink and empties it.) I
feel so thirsty! Oh! oh! Have you ever seen a tigress with a new-born
cub? Yes, that was what she was like, an absolute beast of prey! Not to
mention her mule-like kicks which I still feel on my chest. My
intestines have been battered into spaghetti. But what can you expect
from a girl wearing heels a cubit and a half high? She almost dislodged
my appendix! After three or four of those kicks, on the fifth round I
struggled for dear life and removed her deadly weapon—her shoes! (Looking in the mirror.) And
my face! Nothing is left of my face, absolutely nothing! Everything is
gone! And my hair, look at it! It has been taken out from its very

(Sits by Gelagle's side.) Well, how shall I put it to
you my dear friend ? That I am walking on this earth alive is in itself
a great miracle. Her grip . . . it is like iron! You can't imagine the
strength of her arms. When I think of it now—I know how wrong I was!
The whole grand mistake was committed by the Ministry of Education and
Fine Arts! That they should allow such a study as physical culture and
things like that for our young sweet girls is the blunder of the
century. It was Madame Asqualetch, a great lady who said, " 'Gymnastics
is unfit for a proper lady," and she refused to send her daughter to
school for this very reason. What a fool I was to criticize her
position. It is only today that I realize the wisdom of that great
lady. She was a giant of a woman, ahead of her times! I must go to her
one of these days and ask her forgiveness for ever contradicting her.
My dear fellow, if a girl is soft and willowy, what does it matter if
she becomes a bit fat and comfortable ?

Gelagle: And then what happened? (He gets up, picks up the shoes from the floor and places them respect­fully on the tabled)

: It is no matter. For the sake of progress and civilization, let alone
being scratched and kicked, I suppose one can and should go through
harsher torments and tortures than this. The great Christian martyrs
didn't earn their crown of glory by doing noth­ing, you know, old boy!
They had to suffer! (Goes and lies full length on the sofa. Gelagle pours another glass of beer and gives it to Yesahak?)

Gelagle: Drink this … I know you deserve it. I can't help but feel sorry for you. (Yesahak takes the glass lying down and takes a long gulp.) But why were you so late in coming ?

You know, we came together at first. Having deposited the " cargo "
here, I had to go back and see how things were in town—you know, a
little intelligence work. (Empties glass.) We should thank

God for this. Nobody followed us, nobody even showed the least amount of suspicion. Everything according to plan. (Gets up and starts pacing.) Do
you know Gelagle, had I not been over-ruled by majority vote, she would
not have been the one for this abduction. Not this wild cat! There was
another chick, one we had seen earlier. She was the one we had first
thought of.

Gelagle: (Ironically.) Well,
it was not the will of God that she should profit from this great experience. Obviously, the stars were not right for the poor girl, the
unlucky one.

Poor thing! What an experience she has missed! You have no idea what
she looked like! Shall I show you the way she walked? Have you ever
seen a real double-breasted chick? A real doll! Lend me you

gives' him his handkerchief. He takes Gelagle's and his own scarf,
makes them into two balls and puts them under his vest as breasts. Then
he takes another handkerchief from his pocket, holds it with the tip of
his fingers with his right hand and waves it delicately. He places his
left hand on his hip. Then he demonstrates the walk of the Kubkuba that
is of a sophisticated town girl. He shows her manner of walk by shaking
his hips and waist in a highly exaggerated and comical manner, looking
to this side and that side while winking in every direction. He finally
exits while Gelagle is looking on amused and the curtain falls on the
first scene of Act one.)

To be continued…

Ancient Harar in Legend and History

By Richard Pankhurst
  Being vanquished by a rival who seized his kingdom, Amu journeyed across Mount Hakim and built a camp on the very hill where Harar now stands. Five villages grew up on the hill.

  About 1204, at the fall of the Fatimite Moslems of the sect of Ah, some members of the sect fled to Africa. Led by a pious man, named Abd el Kadir, they eventually reached Harar where Abd el Kadir was accepted as religious chief also by the villagers already established on the hill.

  After some years Abd el Kadir desired to return to Bagdad. He called his followers together, urged them to live in brotherly concord and instructed them to appoint a leader to replace him. Each man was to remove his turban and to girdle his house with it. The man whose turban most nearly girdled his home was to be the leader. Chance favoured Abba Derb (or Abadir). The spot where this meeting took place outside the walls of the City is still celebrated with honour. Bardey,* the French merchant, who spent a number of years in Harar, tells us that even the Egyptians during their occupation of Harar did not fail to send flags and music to the ceremony. Abadir is highly revered in Harar and many local poems celebrate his virtues.

  The Moslem Governors of Harar bore the title Ahu. The tomb of one of them, Ahu Said Ali, built of rough stones, is said to be in the market-place. Legend has it that if the city is besieged, but only then, a deep well fed by an abundant stream may be found under those stones. In Bardey’s time many of the old people declared their ancestors had been saved from death by that beneficent spring.

  Among the subsequent governors of Harar is said to have been Ayah Abida (Mother of abundant prayer) who had carried water to the troops in battle and exhorted them to deeds of valour.

  The Harar Chronicles give a list of some 26 personali­ties as rulers of Harar during 300 years, but these appear to have governed a wider area, of which Harar at times formed part. According to Dr. Phillip Paulitschke, the first of the 26 to make his residence in Harar was Sultan Abu Bakr in 1521 a.d.

  Ahmed ibn Ibrahim el Ghazi, known as Gran (the left-handed). There had then been intermittent warfare between the Moslems of Adal, where Harar was situated and the Emperors of all Ethiopia, for several centuries, and particularly since the time of the Emperor Amda Sion (1314-1344) ; but there were intervals of peace when the Moslem chiefs appointed by the Emperor to administer Adal and other areas acknowledged the supremacy of the imperial power and accepted office as governors responsible to the Emperor. In the periods of warfare many parts of the country were laid waste and the population suffered bitterly. When Gran rose to prominence the warfare was terribly intensified. The Ottoman Turks and the Portuguese were then contending on the seas for control of the East and the Eastern trade.

  Gran became an instrument of the Ottoman Empire ; in this attack on the rest of Ethiopia he was supplied with Turkish cavalry, cannon and matchlockmen, these played havoc with the Ethiopian forces, then armed only with swords and spears. The aim of the Turks was to add Ethiopia to the Ottoman realm. In fact they succeeded in occupying the Ethiopian Red Sea coast and were not dislodged from it till the nineteenth century. Gran made Harar his headquarters.

  The history is well known of the small Portuguese force headed by Christopher da Gama, which landed at Massawa to assist sorely beleaguered Ethiopia, the defeat of the Portuguese, the capture and decapitation of Christopher da Gama, the ultimate rally of the Ethiopians under their young King Claudius, aided by the remnant of the Portuguese and their firearms, the death of Gran in battle near Lake Tana.

  The history of Gran’s campaigns by his own chronicler is sad to read ; the destruction of works of art, of historic monuments and of accumulated wealth was stupendous, the immense slaughter of the population was pitiable in the extreme.

  Gran was succeeded by Nur who initiated the building of the wall round Harar City, and according to Dr. Paulitschke, introduced also the Harar currency.

  In 1577 the Imam who ruled Harar, Mohammed Gaza, removed his capital to Aussa because Harar had become too much exposed to attack by the Galla tribes. Henceforth the City contended (and now for its very existence), not with the Emperors of Ethiopia, but with the Galla and Somali tribesmen.

  The Emir Ali ibn Da’ud (1647-1653) established a dynasty of 15 descendants.

  During this period it is said the Gallas first established themselves within the City walls and the rulers of the town commenced marrying Galla and Somali women.

  It was under the rule of the Emir Ahmad ibn Abi Bakr (1755-1782), in the year 1761-2 precisely, that the minaret called " al Suhayle," one of the two minarets of the ancient Mosque of Yami, was constructed. It bore an inscription in Arabic verse. According to Cerulli,* the Harar rulers at this time were called " Aftal." The woman’s title was " guisti."

  The last of the dynasty of Ali ibn Da’ud was the Emir Ahmed bin Abu Bakr whom Burton visited in 1854. Toward the end of the following year Ahmed passed the government to his wife, Guisti Fatmah, whom Bardey tells us was a woman of great energy. Sheikh Mohammed Abd el Shakur, who coveted the power, then absconded to the Gallas, and successfully incited them to attack the City. Fatmah," greatly beloved by the people," succeeded in encouraging the Hararis to withstand the siege till her husband died in 1856. Then Abd el Shakur became its governor. He debased the currency, Bardey says, by adulterating the silver with lead. He introduced a small copper coin, the Mohalak, rated at 25 to the dollar. Abd el Shakur was in power when the Egyptian forces assumed control.—E.S.P.

Gabre Mariam School: The Franco-Ethiopian Lycee in the 1958

  Another among the Ethiopian students at Cairo who after his schooldays was to serve Ethiopia with com­petence and devotion is the brother of Aklilou, Ato Akelework Haptewold. For many years he was Vice-Minister of Education and also the Ethiopian Ambassa­dor in Paris. These are the most prominent, but many others were also noteworthy. Several of these brilliant youths however were cruelly murdered during the Italian occupation—many of them at the time of the great massacre of February 1937.

  Aklilou Haptewold after taking the French baccalaureate in Cairo proceeded to Paris where he was a student at the Sorbonne when the Italian aggression at Wai Wai ushered in Italy’s tragic invasion of Ethiopia.

  Aklilou then became an eloquent and popular speaker in defence of his country’s cause at public meetings throughout France.

  During that campaign relations of warm friendship grew up between the young Ethiopian student and the veteran French statesman, Edouard Herriot.

  After the liberation of Ethiopia in 1942, after France had herself fallen victim to the Axis aggressors and her soil had in time been freed of them. Foreign Minister Aklilou, on behalf of the Ethiopian Government, en­quired of Herriot, by this time President of the French National Assembly, whether the French would be dis­posed to open in Addis Ababa a Lycee such as he had attended in Cairo. Herriot strongly approved the project. The necessary official steps having been taken by both governments, the Franco-Ethiopian Lycee, which bears the name "Gabre Mariam" in honour of a famous Ethiopian hero of the national resistance, was opened on March 15th, 1948 under the auspices of the Mission Laique Francaise.

  Toward the upkeep of the Lycee the Ethiopian Government provided (1958) 100,000 Ethiopian dollars annu­ally, as well as the school premises and the extensive grounds in which they stand. . The French provide 208,000 (1958) Ethiopian dollars annually.

  There were no boarders; all were day pupils. A charge of 5 (1958) Ethiopian dollars (about 15/-) is made monthly for Ethiopian students, and of 15 (1958) Ethiopian dollars for foreigners. These charges were of course extremely low, but the Lycee exists primarily for service as well as having to compete with Ethiopian Government schools which are completely free and at the secondary level provide also free board, lodging and clothing. Nevertheless the Lycee, having commenced in 1948 with 391 pupils had in 1958 a total of 1,300 pupils boys and 620 girls.

  The school was hard-pressed to accommodate so large a population of pupils; its main building was long since filled; some classes were held in temporary buildings situated in the grounds; some were even working in old temporary structures in the National Library garden which is ten minutes walk distant. A great new additional building was erected by the Ethiopian Government on adjacent land.

  Among the pupils were 29 nationalities: 840 Ethiopians, 85 French, 100 Italians, 35 Americans, 25 Greeks, 20 Dutch, 18 English, 18 Germans, 17 Swedes, 12 Nor­wegians, 8 Swiss, 6 Egyptians, 6 from Iran, the rest from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, etc.

  At all ages the pupils agreed marvellously well to­gether; the Director, M. Berlan, indicated there was no trace of rancour between the French and German child­ren or the Ethiopian and Italian.

  As in other schools, there was a diminution of pupils in the higher classes, as compared with those in the lower, particularly among the girls, but the tendency to leave early among both boys and girls was progressively being reduced.

  The Lycee has kindergarten, primary and secondary departments. The pupils of the elementary classes sit for the examination qualifying for the French certificate of proficiency in primary studies; pupils of the secondary departments take the French baccalaureat examination. In the courses for the baccalaureat examination, students may specialise either in mathematics, giving lesser attention to science, or they may specialise in science (the course is termed science experimentale), giving lesser attention to mathematics. There was also a course in philosophy, but it was not held in Ethiopia as there is little demand for it, science being more attrac­tive to Ethiopian youth who considered their country has very special need to make progress in the scientific field.

  Part II of the baccalaureat which gave access to French Universities was first passed by pupils of the Addis Ababa Lycee in 1958. Between 1952 and 1957, 31 pupils were studying for this examination.

  Former students of the Addis Ababa Lycee who have been successful in Part II of the baccalaureat include:

JOHANNES KASSA, Faculty of Science of Paris. Now a teacher of mathematics in the Franco-Ethiopian Lycee in Addis Ababa.

BERHANOU ABEBE, Faculty of Law, University of Paris.

EPHREM ASFAU, Faculty of Medicine, University of Paris.

ASSEFA KASSA, Faculty of Science, University of Paris.

TAYE MANGASHA, School of Agriculture of Toulouse.

AHMED DIRIA, Ecole Brequet, Paris.

WORHKOU TAFARA, Faculty of Medicine, University of Paris.

MARKOS KAYBAGHTAN. Faculty of Medicine of Montpellier.

OMAR EL HABASHI, Advanced Commercial Studies. (H.E.C.), Paris.

BEDRU BOUCHRA, Faculty of Medicine, Montpellier.

MAKONNEN BALATCHOU, Civil Engineering, Paris.

  Also studying at the Sevigne Lyceum in Paris to be kindergarten teachers:



  Three former Ethiopian pupils of the Lycee who did not take the baccalaureat went on to studying biology at the American University of Beyrout:




  Three other former Ethiopian pupils who did not take the baccalaureat went to studying in Paris:

ZAUDIE RETTA, School of International Journalism.


GATACHOU BALATCHOU, Course for Librarians.

  The Lycee has thus a number of successes to its credit; In 1958, 9 pupils sat for the second part of the baccalaureat, their names and the vocations they intend to follow are:


ALMAZ FETENE, Veterinary.


FIKRE JUSUF, Veterinary.


MEDE DERESSA, Electrical Engineering.

INGEDA GABRE MEDHEN, Electrical Engineering.

GATACHOU ABEBE, Electrical Engineering.

MOHANE D. OMAR, Electrical Engineering.

  M. Berlan indicated that the pupils of the Lycee speak much better English than is usual with children of the same age in France. Mme. Amour, an English­woman who has become a French subject by marriage, and has taught English in France is one of the three teachers of English on the Gabre Mariam staff. She arrived from France in October, 1957, and was much surprised to find Ethiopian children speaking English with great fluency and admirable pronunciation. They far out-distance French children in this respect, she insisted. In short, their proficiency in English reached a very high standard.

  The curriculum is directed mainly toward the bacca­laureat. Therefore French history and geography are included. The school is laique; therefore it does not give religious instruction, leaving parents to teach what they please of this subject. The younger children were taught to sew. There are gymnastics for all.

  The main building, situated in a large pleasant garden, was surrounded by tall geraniums whose cheerful scarlet blossoms remain in bloom all the year round, as happens in Ethiopia. A structure of one storey, its outer walls protected by barge-boards, it appears as a large homely bungalow, it is brightly decorated in the style of a well-cared for nursery and is furnished with chairs and tables suited to the dimension of its little people.

  In the classroom of the youngest pupils, who are only three or four years old, the children built towers and castles with pieces of wood of various shapes and sizes, brightly painted in divers colours.

  Other pupils arranged little flat pieces of wood, cut out to resemble animals diminishing in size. These they inserted in wooden trays each cut so that a row of animals could fit into it.

  The kindergarten has also outgrown its premises; an adjacent piece of land had been acquired from private ownership by the Ethiopian Government enabling another school-house of size equal to the present one to be erected and another large garden to be added.

Literature and the African Public

By Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin

In discussing this or these literatures we need to qualify the role of
the creative writer in connection with his existing realities out of
which background he is born: his faculties, his tools, and more
particularly his commitments. There is hardly an uncommitted creative
writer in any given society, time and condition, since the very
phenomenal of being inspirationally engaged em-bodies the sense of
being spiritually and/or emotionally committed. Committed to what? Of
course to his conscience first, and through his conscience to his art.
Then, through his art to the conscious understanding of the needs,
aspirations, prejudices and limitations of his society: and finally,
through the conscious service of that society's expression, a
commitment to the service of universal art, since all art, after all,
converge at the fundamental human level.

we come to the question of where does "Afri­can Literature" stand in
this body of universality, or even more precisely to the old, hoary
question of what in fact is African Literature, I would like to digress
for a moment and consider it under more detached questions: What in
concrete terms, are the languages that should make African literatures,
and what, in appraising these literatures, is the commitment of the
writer to a given society. Certainly, it is not by avoiding the former
all too well beaten argument of What is African Literature, what
our writers, patrons or critics tell us it should or should not be
concerned in, that we can get close to the heart of the matter, but, by
simply admitting that there is no one single body of African Literature
just like there is no single body of Asiatic or European Literature
with a capital "L" and an excla­mation mark. Yet. perhaps, by once
again trying to define the role and commitment of any writer in any
given .society, or even by at least eliminating that litera­ture which
is not born out of the indigenous African vernaculars, we should be
able to arrive at what makes African Literature or not. Thus, Hausa
Literature is African and Bengali is not, Zulu is and English is not

as to why these trees of African languages were not, so fur, given
enough chance to bear fruit, demands of us, to face certain rigid
factors of history and politics.

was Africa considered to be before the colonial days? The Westerners
had mostly to rely on what their travelers, their ivory hunters and
slave traders reported to them, followed by the information from

and finally through the suppressed echoes of the whip of their colonial
administrators. As such, the first introduction of the black man in the
concept of the Western, was in the image of a humiliated humanity. The
slander to his dignity, to his way of life, to his values, which so
incessantly recur as a matter of fact across the "civilized" world
today, drew breath, then. Although his social systems were almost,
destroyed although condemned to grapple with these world wide historic
and current realities which negate his values, yet, it is still not by
his capacity as an individual, not by his success or failure as a
member of a group reflection, but the color of his skin and his
physical characteristics appeared to be the core of the element by
which the Western master judged him. He is put on trial by his very
appearance and played the underdog of his country's class structures.

of these and against these, the African was taught to protest in his
master's ways, in his master's values, in his master's language. Yet
Africa was never mute in her own heritage of self expressions before or
after the colonial days. The problem is how to record her abun­dant
oral literatures in her own languages and preserve them for her
children, how to record the very social traditions both in their
similar and contradicting shades and evolve them in a harmony of
oneness through the taste of time and the criteria of their own humane
level, since any language should be given a chance to develop its
potential of literature.

writer-sons of those who yesterday had to in­terpret their ways of life
to their masters under the point of the colonizer's gun and under his
conditions, should be the ones, whose commitments it is, to reincarnate
these languages.

challenge is not whether they could or could not, but whether they
should at all and there is a double edge to this "should."

first is, should Africa (a) who must face the hard reality of her
political and economical main languages being English and French, (b)
who must face the obvious multiplicity and limitations of the mother
languages presenting the paramount problems of insufficient
ex­pressions, and that one cannot fuse these vernaculars overnight into
one hugs literary common-denominator, (c) who must face the reality
that the two inherited English and French languages have successfully
proved to Africa, and through her to the world, having brought her
standard of higher education side by side with that of the Western
academic scale, (d) who must face the reality that her appeal through
these two wold wide lan­guages had, or should have ticked a dialogged
of under­standing between the "mass" of the outside world and the
African Public, and that, considering herself "lucky" for being the
inheritor of these major languages: Should Africa abandon these useful
tools of communications and literatures which history so inevitably put
at her service?

second edge is, should Africa, (a) who must face the reality of the
cultural bastardization that has been and is being forced down the
throats of the existing human conditions of her societies, (b) who must
face the time honored reality that the language any "native" dreams in,
is the one nearest perfect tool to record or recount his experiences
in, and that no full grown culture or healthy tree, can, (without
losing a good part of its . nuance essence or destroying that of its
counterpart), be transported, transplanted, translated, or
trans-anything on to another root or tradition, (c) who must face the
responsibility that Africa's own cultural trees should be given chance
to bear fruit for their own consumers, the quality and content of the
fruit to be enjoyed or de­nounced by those societies out of whose
background conditions, settings, experiences is born the urge of
in­spiration that carry the scar and laughter of their life, and, by
the criteria of those who have developed a conscious taste for their
vernaculars, and are now awakening into a new blood of national
characteristics and historic awareness; (d) who must realize that there
shall always be an obvious and understandable French and/or English
cultural prerogative in all those African writings of these
expressions, and that as a contrast result, a gradual shrinkage and
eventual extinction of the vernaculars is inevitable, (e) who must
realize, that the creative offsprings from these French and English
cultural prerogatives (however localized they might have been made to
appear), are bound to tag Africa's values on to their own priorities,
thereby exposing a bastardized culture of an Anglo-French well
calculated mid­wifery : Thus, should Africa, at this point take heed
and peel away any lumping up of colonial cultures which shatter her
authentic heritages, under the cover of "hard realities?"

they both are: a dilemma of realities. Yet, by the use of English and
French, the nearest we achieve would be an Africanised English or an
Africanised French, but not an African Literature, since the imported
languages do not spring from the life-root of the peoples expression.
This too is reality. Is it not because Shake­speare originally dreamt
in English that he had the courage to refrain from playing his talent
into the lure of Greek and Latin which held the platform of
inter­national repute then? Do young African talents, unlike
Shakespeare and his colleagues of that era, afford to play their gifts
into the classified columns of Paris and London literary papers, and by
so doing, afford them­selves to live apart and above the needs and
realities of their societies? We have already said that these very many
vernaculars are all too limited in scope to accom­modate sufficient
expressions for a modern thought. But however much effort and will has
been exerted in them so far, was more in the line of the research of
language sciences, and not in helping them develop as possible tools of
literary mediums. Besides, "limitation" had once been the big challenge
at the root of all the major languages of today.

is by recording ideas in the very language one dreamt in, first, and
then having the same translated into other foreign languages second,
that the recogni­tion and growth of vernaculars into wider instruments
of literature is guaranteed; that is, the language of conception is the
one given priority to express in, how­ever limited its scope happens to
be at the beginning. Because, the best one does in translating ideas
from its original concept into another tool of expression, is to get
the nearest possible meaning of the vernacular copied into its closest
equivalent of the foreign language. In other words, the work is more
complete when recorded in the language of its original conception, even
though it might appear limited in the extent of its expression. Having
dreamt or conceiver an idea in one's own language and then depicting
the same into the written words of that same language, is not an all to
simple process, let alone having to translate or adopt the origi­nal
idea or dream into the idiom of an alien tongue whose approach, warmth
and attitude of thought is a far cry from that of the conceiver's
dream. It is a generally accepted fact, that the very sense of a
translated idea in literature disallows the thought of a full blooded
com­pleteness in the work concerned: the focus would distinctly be
concentrated more on the skeleton and theme only, and less on the form
and quality of the content.


enough has not been said yet, about the dilemma of these realities one
is supposed to challenge. The language, or even particularly the social
dilemma of the African Public, (both being the close concern of the
writer), arises not only from the multiplicity of tribal vernaculars
which greatly hinder both inter-African and inter-State communications,
but, also from the fact that to a major extent, the Continent being
born out of traditionally humane communal societies of collectivism is
now bordering on the problem of how to bring about a modern image of
the Africanist thought, without having to succumb into the
materialistic hands of a technological civilization, or, without having
to gamble with the possible contamination of a Marxist ideology; on how
to bring about a modern image of the Africanist thought, acceptable by
all concerned and adoptable into their own particular variations while
at the same time the core of their value judgments would converge into
a historic solidarity of an African purpose. Between these hard
realities we are confronted with, and the survival of our cultural,
language, and social values which we cherish, lies the conflicting
African image. Our conscious question then, is how to bridge this
inevitable transitional precipice for a modern Africa. Since free
Africa is an Africa politically torn between the forces of these world
patronizing ideologies, each force pulling her way from the "isms" of
their disfavor; Washington pulling her away from "the menace of
Communism," Moscow/Peking pulling her away from "the menace of
Capitalism," (i.e., whether she likes it or not), it merely accelerates
the dilemma of the creative artist who must at least live with the
wishful thinking that his gift is a vehicle of free thought and not a
battlefield for the game of dogma-wrestlers. Added to these, new
African governments already under politicians and militarists run amock
with power greed, and cutting as many images of the Africanist concept
as their egoes lead them to feed upon, and mystifying the questions
which the artist looks for behind the ready made answers fabricated to
blunt the thrust of his sincerity. Coupled with this, is the old world,
which, on one hand, like the toothless terror of a deadly wounded god,
plagues and exasperates the modern ideals of the writer into a host of
complexities; into a sense of guilt for the role he affects as the
sensitive medium where the timeless old values conflicted with the
inconsistent and untested new; into a sense of incapacity for his lack
of knowledge concerning what exactly each tribal tradition and
re­ligious custom imposed in a similar or contradicting manner to one
another; into a sense of defense against the dangerously sensational
misinterpretation of the Western film consumers' outlook of Africa;
into a sense of awareness (and acceptance with a pinch of salt) of a
seemingly "civilized" technological world which uprooted man and his
centuries of efforts during two major wars, presenting Africa with a
fait accompli and still threatening life with a third and fatal if not
a total one. On the other hand, the heritage of his fathers which his
"civilizer" almost afaced and which the artist selects on his own
discretion to keep the bridge for a future African generation framing
it into a form of modern angry expression, would add to his mental
exasperation, whenever the questions raised by his ideals fail to gain
corresponding answers under the test of intriguing re­search.


of these, each forms a theory, an image, each in his own Africanness;
differing in the interpretation of his national or local heritage and
experience; and each expressing the self and society inside the
uniform-cut black-cloth, (which is but a pigment cover of the self).
Several theories have already been formed, either out of well-meaning
intentions like Negritude, Pan Africanism or out of sinister motives,
like Apartheid. Yet, the image of the Africanness which we indigenous
Africans have in common, (however much it might have been interpreted
or distorted to fit into the manner and motive of each politician,
writer, critic or racial supremacist), cannot be based on any of these
new adventures of theories, be it Negritude, African cultures of
English Expression for Commonwealth Members, Apartheid or Black Power
for that matter, but, on the predominant basis of a traditionally
humane society whose existent geographic, or even particularly the
glaring historic factors, that have necessitated the birth of these
theories, and perhaps of more to come. The factors, in which and
because of which Africa suffered and still suffers a psychological,
moral, physical, and economical disalig-nation. Disregarding those
degenerate theories of sinister motives for a moment, that's, the
theory of the Apartheid's Clan or its extreme counterpart for a moment,
and considering these theories of healthy intent which are born out of
Africa's indigenous interest. Whatever differences they appear to have
had so far in their supplement towards a total African image, are
differ­ences by degrees and not fundamental differences. This is
because, both Negritude and the theories that are expressed in its
disfavor, often from the British Ex-Colonies, arise from the same
historic backbone of an Africa Lost and Regained. Regained in a
historic factor of violent engagement and still facing a constant shock
of disalignation, still living in the oppressed-oppressor ring of
combatant in protest and jailor in guilt. It is in the regaining of
this total Africanness that her sons cannot afford to prostitute her
traditional sensibilities: sensibilities which are at the core of her
identity and are at the same time both age-bound and current; current
because her die-hard sensibilities are still challenged and influenced
by East-West values; age-bound because these sensibilities which we
treasure have their own established governing values and should awaken
into transitional context by her own right and not by being bogged down
into these threatening forces of doubtful motives. The threat lies
within, (a) the exodus to the cities, mainly because of the centralized
economic oppor­tunities, leaving the communal background, family
concern, language, and values behind, creating a vacuum whose
substitutions are usually elements that sap at the energy of the
traditional ideas resulting in a total altera­tion of the personality;
it lies within, (b) the tendency of the African conscious writer, being
lured and drained in government services out of necessity for his
liveli­hood, and from where he dare not make objective statements in
variance with the existing political thought of his state; it lies
within (c) the avoided ugly question of how British certain
Commonwealth African States, or how French the Senegalese have become
culturally, (however much they might hate or love themselves for it),
it lies within (d) the evaluation of the thrill and fear ridden
god-masks who shall have soon lost their terror but not their
traditional significance and social timelessness in the forming of a
peoples' national characteristics, since out of all religious cult
evolves a peoples' cultural backbone, and out of the craft of the
carver, a nations art; it lies within (c) the realization and
acceptance of the fact that we cannot afford to concentrate literatures
on the aristocracy of the speech making intellectuals and on the
exportation of the same to the patrons' news­papers, but must embrace
and involve all groups of tribe or clan societies and the only way to
do so is by using their vernaculars.

should add this, lest I appear merely advocating against the idea of
all "Westernist" or "Easternist" process of assimilation which have of
course already taken us by the heads. My meaning is simple, that we,
like them, should be allowed to preserve our cultural identities,
(language being the most conscious tool of culture), our experiences,
our conditions and needs with the awareness of responsible contribution
towards man's universality at the basic human level. By stressing on
all authentic African settings and the everyday real­ities originating
in an African experience to be first recorded for the African in his
own language, is not to set any form of an imaginary boundary between
the basic and universal human nature expressed in all sorts of
literatures, but to once more underscore the fact that there can be no
true African Literature without the use of her own language. Nor is
this a mere attitude of aloofness in one's Africanness, a nostalgic
defiance in the Motherland's nationalism: it is a matter of need, a
purpose of concern, for the poet-engaged, the painter, critic,
politician and all concerned in the development of a true cultural
personality of the Africans.

Following is, a line from a West Indian novelist, E. R. Braithwaite's from his "To Sir With Love: -"

have grown up British in every way. Myself, my parents, and my parents
parents, none of us know or could know any other way of living, of
thinking, of being; we knew no other culture pattern," and then, "I
realized at that moment that I was British but evidently not a Briton..
. . I would need to examine myself and fellow West Indian in Mr.
Braithwaite's novel. And we ask no less of an appraisal for Africa,
only, she need not wait until she has lost it all; a cultural right
growing side by side with her political right is what she must appraise
before it is too late, as it appears to be for our fellow West Indian
in Mr. Braithwate's novel. And surely, one's own language is the life
blood of one's culture. The Greek Philosopher, Aristotle, whom
Shakespeare well understood, once said "to have one's own language is a
dignity of a people."

it is not the mere assertion, protest, or politics —moralist
declamation in the oppressor's language to the oppressor, but the
mirroring of a society in all her complexities and in the literature of
her own language which expresses her to herself, that exposes her to
her own image, that she is finally absolved, and it is within this
absolution that the duty of the writer artist lies.

priding yourself in your color, (whatever that is supposed to mean),
and exclaiming it out loud English or French poetry, implied, that you
were once taught to be ashamed of the same or made to feel little
because of it, why not record and proclaim the poem in the vernacular
you dreamt it, in order to embrace and involve your own people first,
and then if and when necessary translate it into the foreign idioms,
second, Why not?

from among the African nations, Ethiopia is one of those who has been
lucky in this context, in that, the "best that has been thought and
said" to quite an extent have, through the centuries, been recorded and
expressed in the languages of her heritage, in the literature of her
own script since 800 B.C., first in Geez, in Tigre-Tigregna, and
finally in Amharic (all languages of wide scope respectively and not
mere dialects as some Western misconceptionists consider them to be),
and all derivatives of the same Geez root, a most ancient script of one
of Ethiopia's earliest people, the Ag-Azi of the time old Adulis, Beha,
and Amum cities whose ruins still stand depicting the country's
historic and cultural backbone. The Western thought which abandoned
African painting and sculp­ture as crude and primitive has had to
reconsider its cocksure disdain in the words of Elie Faure who wrote of
African art as characterizing "the universe itself " and as reflecting
"the orderliness of the cosmos." Who knows what African literatures
would do, if only given the chance of survival by us, her young
writers, who appear to have abandoned her languages? Certainly, what
our new African language need for their development as possible
literary tools, are the attractions of modern realities adopted into
the roots of their own existing potentials, to attract the realities
outside the boundaries of their circulations and cross fertilize them
into their own circumstance without efacing the essential
characteristics of their cultural inheritance, and at the same time
considering the nature of the new qualities that make themselves newly
acceptable to the African warmth; unless, by refusing a wider range of
accommodation for the newer realities, we invite the dangers of
parochialism that may lag the transitional forces long set in motion,
and by so trying create some sensitively narrow customs edged into
their own rigid sterility. Narrow pro­vincialism or clan sense, would
render us, in literature as in progress, crippled exhibitionists
supporting fall­ing tribal walls against one another, and the energies
we exert, would only hasten our being buried with them.

it is not by allowing our spirit to be hypnotized by the specter of
West-East ideologies or bogged down by their cultural inoculations that
we can help realize a totality of an African image, particularly when
this practical and immediate necessity cannot be solved with our
endless debates of abstractions instigated by the sinister motives of
the selfsame "friendly" pharaohs. The African writer, is not long past
the period of questioning his idea as to what ingredient of his African
totality might have been eliminated in the process of his alien
rehabilitating techniques, and what essentials of language, art and
literature he cannot afford to overlook in the grave responsibilities
he exercises in the guidance and background formation of younger
writers. Although he might not afford to disregard these current forces
which are at work and are in a better position to influence the temper
of the times, it must at least be with the conscious awareness that the
influence cannot be at the risk of mental or cultural colonizations,
as, for instance, in the * go white —go beautiful" degenerate notion
inculcated into certain lighter skinned Negro Americans, of the
back­handed encouragement of Apartheid's (the deadliest wedge thrust in
the soul of our Africanness), glaring at us behind the idle but
calculated silence of Anglo-American incorporated. Within this lies the
core of our conflicting value judgments. We might heed Ben Franklin's
words here, " As we must account for every idle word, so we must for
every idle silence," of, that the same friend cannot be a flatterer at
the same time. Certainly there shall be little or no African art if our
laws of creativity were out of touch with these hideous realities being
played against our cultural values.

it is only the literature that involves all groups to this awareness,
the literature of Africa's expression by right of indigenous birth, in
transcending time and dogma and on the digestion of time and
generations, that would help the writer and the consumer to form a
conscious thought of an African future, no longer disalignated in
determining the pace and direction of a world that concerns her. It is,
therefore, more with

literatures that embrace each and every group who have developed a
conscious taste for this vernacular, in the recalling to life and to
his awareness, the structural backbone of the ways of the colonial and
traditional survivals, in forecasting for him what new realities
Africa's culture is about to naturalize, what social impact this new
naturalization represents in relation to or in conflict with that of
his past or passing realities, in the findings of what it might reflect
on the East-West ideological impact as envisaged through the image of
his Africanness, and, in the depiction of these messages which
unfortunately happen too fast for Africa's pace and in which she is
incessantly ham­strung, that the engagement of the African writer
should first stand. It is more in the literatures of a total African
involvement and less in his contem­porary niche in the temple of fame,
that the commit­ment and excitement of the African man of letters who
stands out as her cultural reincarnate and the embodi­ment of her
literatures, would find himself his rightful and deserving