This blog post was originally written and published in March 2020 on LinkedIn. It is presented to you as an example of ethnic marketing for the good.
"Our histories are connected! We are acknowledging our African connection.” ---Marquett Milton
For several years now a wreath laying ceremony event [honoring, remembering, celebrating] has taken place at the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C. to honor the Ethiopian victory in Adwa, Ethiopia on March 1, 1896. This victory battle ended the First Italian-Ethiopian War, 1894 to 1896.
For the record, this blog post is not intended to bash ethnic Italians or people of European descent, it is intended to counter the evil and demonic work of racists, fascists, colonizers and white supremacists.
Since 1896 Ethiopians celebrated the victory. Then, in the 21st century the late Professor Hari Jones (seen in the photo below), the former curator and assistant director of the African American Civil War Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. introduced the Adwa Victory program to the memorial and we are forever grateful.
|Hari Jones (1958-2018)|
The Adwa wreath event is a partnership between the African American Civil War Memorial Museum and Little Ethiopia, which is the ethnic Ethiopian community that is one block east of the memorial on 9th Street, NW (NW stands for northwest). It extends from north to south from U Street, NW to N Street, NW. Little Ethiopia is not only Ethiopian, but also Eritrean, Nigerian, Ghanaian---a Pan African collage. Over the years notable faces have attended the wreath laying event. The wreath is decorated with the colors of the Ethiopian national flag. Even though the battle took place in Ethiopia it is honored by African Americans as part of their ancestral "African connection."
|U.S. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (1837-1863)|
Shaw is the name of the community where this all takes place. The memorial, museum and Little Ethiopia all sit in the shadow of Howard University---which is also in Shaw. The Shaw community is named after the U.S. Civil War hero Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, and was created by African Americans after the U.S. Civil War in 1865.
|Mr. Marquett Milton|
Photo Credit: Johnny Coleman II/Anthro21
An event organizer and familiar face is Mr. Marquett Milton. A student of the late Hari Jones, Milton works as a living historian, working in uniform and representing the United States Colored Troops' legacy. He portrays Mr. Andrew Green who was born enslaved and freed under the D.C. Emancipation Act, which came before the Emancipation Proclamation. This action made it legal for Andrew Green to fight in military uniform to free himself and his family.
In the past what we call the U.S. Civil War was called the War of the Rebellion (1861-1865). When men of African descent joined the war, it was 1863 and they helped to outnumber the Confederacy and turned the tide of that war. In fact, men of African descent made up ten percent of the Northern Army, or what they called the Union Army.
The memorial remembers the lives and legacy of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). According to Thomas Morris Chester, the only African descent Civil War correspondent, the USCT were the the first of the U.S. government forces to enter and capture Richmond, Virginia in April 1865. Their victory set the grounds for the end of the Civil War which ended months later.
During legal enslavement and since, African Americans held a deep affinity to Africa, its politics and people. They even named their institutions Africa or African. The African Lodge, the African Free School, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church are examples. It is a myth created by slaveowners that enslaved Africans accepted or wanted to be enslaved. However both enslaved and free Africans in the Americas resisted enslavement using violence, non-violence, diplomacy, pamphlets and so much more. This was seen in the lives of Prince Hall, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Keckley, Prince Abdul Rahman Ibrahima, David Walker, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Phyllis Wheatley, Martin Delany and many more.
This was also seen in the work of the Underground Railroad. A network that included people of many nationalities who believed in freedom and liberty. For many of that generation their work was to not simply to end slavery, but to become full American citizens in league with the United States Constitution.
|Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taytu|
Photo Credit: Amhara Kings
When we think on Adwa, we must know that the First Italian-Ethiopian War was sparked by the words of a treaty between the two countries. Specifically, Ethiopia's version of the treaty read different from the one in Italian. The treaty positioned Ethiopia to be a protectorate of Ital and stated that they had to inform Italy of any contact they would have with another nation.
After reading it Emperor Menelik II and his wife Empress Taytu Betul united Ethiopia for the fight. Empress Taytu was famous for her taking the battlefield along with her husband, seen in the painting below. Their unification of the ethnic groups surrounding their kingdom for the fight, and their victory resonated around the world---this is why the victory is called a Pan African victory. The deciding battle in Adwa was fought for two days.
Having organized this event with others since the passing of Professor Jones, Mr. Milton shared that "Our histories are connected! We are acknowledging our African connection.”