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#241: Haitian in Ethiopia: Chamberlain asks (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

Anyone have any more info on the Haitian -- Benito Sylvain -- mentioned in
this article extract?


 Addis Ababa (Addis Tribune, July 23, 1999) - Ethiopia, then popularly 
known as Abyssinia, came into the fore of black consciousness during  the
closing of the nineteenth century. In March 1896 the Ethiopians  dealt a
decisive blow to the Italian colonial army at the battle of  Adwa, a
district in northern 
   Ethiopia. Besides ensuring Ethiopia's independence for decades to come, 
the Adwan victory catapulted overnight the once obscure northeast  African
kingdom into world attention. For blacks the world over, the  Adwan victory
became a self-defining moment: a source of racial pride,  a beacon of hope
and a symbol of freedom. 
   Evident of this newly aroused interest in Northeast Africa was the 
visit to Ethiopia at the turn of the century by two distinguished black 
adventurers: Benito Sylvain and William Ellis. Sylvain was a  Paris-based
Haitian intellectual, with a long history of pan-African  activism. Among
other things, he played a central role in organizing  the first pan-African
congress in London in the summer of 1900. He  visited Ethiopia twice, in
1897 and 1903. On both occasions he met with  Emperor Menelik and tried in
vain to establish diplomatic links between  Ethiopia and Haiti, the only
independent black republic in the Western  hemisphere. 
   During his second mission to North East Africa Sylvain was accompanied 
by William Ellis, an African-American traveler. Ellis' 1903 trip to 
Northeast Africa was commercially driven, with a secondary interest in  the
establishment of an African-American colony. On his return to the  US,
Ellis tried to arouse American business interest in Ethiopia by  painting a
fantastic picture of the country as a land rich in precious  stones and
other natural resources. Among other things, Ellis is given  the credit for
having paved the way for the launching of the American  diplomatic mission
to Ethiopia headed by Robert Skinner. 


   African awareness of Ethiopia as an independent state struggling to 
maintain its age-old independence may be said to date back to Emperor 
Menilek's historic victory over the Italians at the Battle of Adwa in 
1896. Several persons of African descent, among them the Haitian leader 
Benito Sylvain, had been profoundly moved by that event. Later, in the 
Summer of 1935, at the time of Mussolini's threatened invasion, Jomo 
Kenyatta, as well as Mr. C.L.R. James, of the West Indies, and several 
other Africans or persons of African decent in Britain had banded 
together, as we may see on another occasion, to found an International 
African Friends of Abyssinia Society.