Purpose: Highlight the significance of Ethiopia and its immense contributions to the Pan African movement and the push for Black pride and unity
Audience: Emowa customers and general audience interested in learning about African history and how Emowa pays homage to African history through its products
Did you know that there are two countries in Africa considered by scholars to have never been colonized? The two countries are Liberia and Ethiopia (Fun Fact #1).
While Liberia was founded in 1821 by Americans who believed freed blacks would have a better chance for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States, Ethiopia is considered Africa’s oldest independent country. It traces its history as a kingdom to as far back as the 10th Century BC. In fact, Ethiopia is directly mentioned in the King James version of the Bible. Ethiopia has long been a symbol of hope, freedom, unity, and black prosperity but gained even greater prominence during the Pan Africanism and Pan-African movement that started in the 18th century as blacks, primarily in the western world, began to demand freedom. The movement was a global call to regain the racial identity and pride that was lost to slavery, colonialism, and social oppression. Pan-African leaders during this period, such as W.E.B. Dubois, saw Ethiopia as a symbol of hope and possibility for the black race. Ethiopia enjoyed even more significance during the late 1890s when it successfully defeated the Italian army in 1897 during the first Italian-Ethiopian war, fought between Italy and Ethiopia between 1895-1896, under the leadership of Ethiopia’s Emperor Menelik II. This successful defeat of the Italian army was considered one of the first decisive victories by African forces over European colonial powers. Coming off the successful resistance, Emperor Menelik and Ethiopia gained greater notoriety and prominence amongst the Pan-African leaders and movement. In fact, Emperor Menelik in the 19th century extended special invitations to skilled blacks in the diaspora to return home, and many accepted his invitation and settled in Ethiopia during this time. Emperor Menelik would also establish another significant rally symbol for Africans and the Pan-African movement: An official flag. On October 6, 1897, Emperor Menelik established the first official flag of Ethiopia, containing three colors: Green, Yellow, and Red. Those colors today are symbolic and have been universally adopted as the Pan-African colors. Upon gaining independence from colonial rule, several newly-established countries in Africa adopted these colors in homage to Ethiopia’s resistance against foreign occupation (check out the flag of Ghana, Cameroon, Mali, Senegal, to name a few) (Fun Fact #2). Ethiopia’s prominence achieved under Emperor Menelik II would not just continue after his reign. A new king and emperor would rise after him and gain even greater notoriety and an ever-lasting legacy in the advancement of freedom and black unity: Emperor Haile Selassie.
Emperor Haile Selassie ruled Ethiopia from 1916 to 1974, first as Regent and King from 1916 -1930, then as Emperor from 1930 - 1974. He would emerge as a defining figure in Ethiopian history, and his views on African unity and black freedom would make him a beloved figure in the Pan-African movement. In 1922 and 1927, he renewed the call for blacks in the diaspora to return home, just like Emperor Menelik II. Under his leadership and instructions, The Ethiopia World Federation was established in New York in 1937 to enhance the unity, liberty, solidarity, freedom, and self-determination of black people around the world. Furthermore, to encourage black people of the diaspora to return to Ethiopia, the Emperor allotted five hundred acres of fertile land in Shashemene, Ethiopia to black people of the west. As part of his mission to advance black freedom and project Ethiopia as a leading black nation, Emperor Haile Selassie introduced the first written constitution in Ethiopia’s history in 1931 and the abolition of slavery. The country also became the first independent African member of the League of Nations and the United Nations. However, Ethiopia’s prosperity and success under the Emperor’s leadership ultimately led to Italy’s attack and invasion in 1936, forcing Haile Selassie into exile until the Italian’s defeat in 1941. While in exile, the Emperor appealed to and ultimately received support from global leaders, primarily the U.S. and Russia, in removing the Italians from his country. Africans and black people globally also rallied around Ethiopia during this time to draw attention and provide support to Ethiopia’s fight for freedom. Emperor Haile Selassie returned to power in 1941 and ruled over Ethiopia until he was deposed in 1974. During his second reign, he continued to work tirelessly for the advancement of freedom and black unity. In 1962, during the 16th United Nations general assembly, he proposed the idea of an organization of African states. In 1963, Emperor Haile Selassie made history by hosting 32 heads of African states in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which gave birth to the Organization of African Unity. Today, his legacy continues to live on in Africans and blacks in the diaspora as a forward-thinking leader and a fighter for black unity and freedom. This is primarily evident in the Rastafari Movement, which began in the 1930s in Jamaica. The name Rastafari comes from the Emperor’s name during his reign as regent when he ruled as Ras Tafari Makonnen. The Rastafarians often claim the flag of Ethiopia as used under the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie. The flag features the Lion of Judah, representing the Emperor and symbolizes strength, kingship, pride, and African sovereignty.
Ethiopia and Emperor Haile Selassie’s contributions to the advancement of unity and black pride cannot be overstated. To share that story with the world through a product that would teach and inspire others is what Emowa has set out to do with the latest release of our Habesha socks. With our new Ethiopia-inspired design, we are telling the story of Ethiopia through socks that are not only fashionable but comfortable and durable. Check out our latest socks to discover why we added coffee bean designs as part of this tribute to Ethiopia (hint: where do you think coffee was discovered?)
Emowa is on a mission to spread awareness, deeper understanding, and appreciation for African history and cultures. Visit our products page to explore more of our items on sale and how each one sheds light on the beautiful continent.