Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

February 2, 1936

On February 2, 1936, the Atlanta Daily World reported on Ethiopians fighting an anticolonial battle against Italy. The article praised the “brave men of [Ethiopian] Emperor Haile Selassie” and described how in the first “great battle since Italy moved its legion of greedy warriors into the land of Ethiopia, the blood-thirsty Ethiopians registered a decisive victory over the rugged men of Mussolini January 28, annihilating the entire northern Italian army near Abbi Addi” (click to view PDF). This battle was part of the second Italo-Ethiopian War which led, after Mussolini’s army defeated the Ethiopian fighters, to Italy’s colonial occupation of Ethiopia. On May 9, 1936, Italy established the Italian East Africa colony by merging Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somaliland.

I first learned about the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and how this colonization resonated in the Pan-African world from Robin D. G. Kelley’s chapter “‘This Ain’t Ethiopia, But It’ll Do’: African Americans and the Spanish Civil War” in his book Race Rebels. Kelley uses the fascist occupation of Ethiopia as a starting point to examine how African Americans, namely members of the black Communist left who joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, saw the Spanish Civil War as an extension of the Italo-Ethiopian War. The epigraph that opens this chapter is from Langston Hughes’ poem “The Ballad of Ethiopia”:

All you colored peoples
Be a man at last 
Say to Mussolini
No! You Shall not pass

As Kelley suggests, the black press followed the Italian invasion of Ethiopia closely. This selection of editorial cartoons highlights frustration with the League of Nations and the United States for their lack of support for Ethiopians, praises journalists like Joel Augustus Rogers for bringing news from Ethiopia to African-American readers, and mourns for the Ethiopians who lost lives, land, and sovereignty. 

“Mothers’ Day...Even in Ethiopia!,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 9, 1936 (click to view PDF)

“Bringing Ethiopia To You,” Pittsburgh Courier, May 2, 1936 (click to view PDF)

“Fiddlin’ While Ethiopia Burns,” Chicago Defender, November 2, 1935 (click to view PDF)

“What of Ethiopia?,” New York Amsterdam News, May 15, 1937 (click to view PDF)

“Ethiopia Shall Stretch Forth,” Chicago Defender, May 25, 1935 (click to view PDF)

“Ethiopia Shall Stretch Forth Her Hand,” Chicago Defender, February 23, 1935 (click to view PDF)

“Christianizing Ethiopia!,” Chicago Defender, May 30, 1936 (click to view PDF)


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