Ethiopia and the United States: History, Diplomacy, and Analysis

By Getachew Metaferia | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4. CONCERNS BETWEEN ETHIOPIA AND THE US (1919–1936)

Issues that have direct bearing on the diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and the US may be primarily bilateral but also have wider ramifications. Following are some issues that have been of concern to both countries.


ETHIOPIANS AND RACISM IN THE UNITED STATES

Ethiopian traders ran into discrimination in the US in the 19th century, and this contributed to the establishment of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City.

On June 10, 1919, the London-based Consul General telegraphed the US Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, and advised him on the appropriate hospitality that the State Department must accord to an Ethiopian delegation that was about to visit the United States. The Consul General stated that the honorable Abyssinians, with their traditional cloth and fine features, were different from American Negros. Despite their skin color and hair texture, they belong to the Semitic race and had to be treated like white men. The Consul General wanted to make sure these sensitive people would not face any discrimination in their hotels or during their meetings with government officials, and he said the Secretary of State must arrange for special preparations.1

The goodwill delegation included Dejazmach Nadew Aba Mebrek, a.k.a. Aba Wello, who later was promoted to Ras, head of the mission; Kentiba Gebru Desta; Ato Heruy Wolde Selassie, who later was promoted to Blatengeta; and Ato Sinke. They arrived in New York from London on July 11, 1919. The delegation stayed at the Hotel Waldorf-Astoria, where they occupied suite No. 16, rooms 209 to 215.2 They also met with the African American delegation of Harlem and invited them to assist

1 Translated from an Amharic book by Dawit Gebru, 1985, Kentiba Gebru Desta ye Ethiopia Kirse, Addis Ababa: Bole Printing House, pp. 141–142.

2 A report by The Chicago Defender, July 12, 1919. “Representatives of foreign government on way to White House; mission secret,” p. 1.

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