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Haile made a forceful speech at the League of Nations in Geneva. On the 30 June 1936, Haile

argued to the members that there were two choices -- "collective security or international lawlessness."



Happy Birthday 

Tafari Makonnen 

(born 23 July 1892-died 27 August 1975 )


Ethiopia is the oldest country on the African continent. And ancestry has played an important role here. The Ethiopian dynasty traces its roots to the marriage between Israelite King Solomon and Makeda, Queen of Sheba. One of their descendants is believed to be Tafari Makonnen, who was born 23 July 1892 in the town of Ejarsa Gora. When he was only 14, Tafari became a provincial governor. He married in 1911 and remained in government. When he was only 25, he was designated Ras (meaning Prince) Tafari and became the heir apparent to the throne. When the empress died and he was to be named emperor, he adopted the name Haile Selassie I. Selassie was the last name of his great grandfather, and Haile Selassie means "might of the trinity."

The 1930s

Emperor Haile was viewed as being progressive, and at only 38 years of age, he appealed to younger people. In his early years of power, he had several accomplishments. The emperor established the first constitution for the country, he promoted the development of newspapers and founded the Bank of Ethiopia, introducing paper currency. About the same time, roads for transport were being placed through Ethiopia.

The Italo-Ethiopian War

With Benito Mussolini as dictator of Italy, Italian military forces attacked Ethiopia on 3 Oct. 1935 without a declaration of war. Italy already occupied the neighboring countries of Eritrea and Somalia. The seven-month war showed that Italy had more weapons of destruction than Ethiopia. The Italians had air power and also used poisoned gas as early chemical warfare.

In May of 1936, Haile Selassie left the country for exile. That same month, Italy claimed Ethiopia as its possession. In his attempts to regain control, Haile made a forceful speech at the League of Nations in Geneva. On the 30 June 1936, Haile argued to the members that there were two choices -- "collective security or international lawlessness." As a result of his persuasiveness, the Soviet Union and the U.S.A. refused to recognize the Italian government's control of Ethiopia. However, Britain and France recognized Italy as having possession of Ethiopia. Although Haile did not immediately obtain his country back, he started receiving recognition as a major international player.

When Italy joined forces with Germany in June 1940, during the European theater of World War II, the British decided to help Haile. British forces located in South Africa worked with the Ethiopian resistance forces. On 5 May 1941, Haile re-entered the capitol of Addis Ababa, five years after the Italian-occupation began. Eight months after this, in January 1942, all Italian forces had been captured in Ethiopia.


In trying to bring the country back together, Haile faced aristocrats and church leaders who were looking for their traditional privileges to be restored. At the same time, a younger generation wanted reform and clashed with those trying to go back to the status quo.

Two Sides Of Haile Selassie

While much of the international community thought highly of the emperor, the opinions of his performance were mixed in his own country. Haile had both his supporters and his critics.

The critics charged that Haile would play his staff against each other. He wanted reports of activities going on in the country, where government officials would be spying on each other. Haile would listen to the reports and show no emotion, so he did not influence the storyteller.

University students demonstrated to point out the large number of Ethiopians living in poverty, who were illiterate and who didn't own a pair of shoes. Many Ethiopians were starving to death, especially in the north. After a BBC documentary was made in the country showing the starvation, foreign correspondents were not allowed in the northern part of the country.

His Supporters

The supporters of the emperor maintained he was an excellent diplomat, making Ethiopia one of the most well known of the African countries. He made a place for Ethiopia in the League of Nations and later the United Nations. He became a major force in establishing the Organization for African Unity.

In the 1940s, he freed the slaves and worked for land reform. In the 1950s, he gave people the right to vote for cabinet positions and opened up the schools to all citizens, not just the wealthy.

The Emperor's Justice

In keeping with a tradition started by King Solomon during biblical times, the emperor would put on the black, floor-length robe of a judge and stand on a platform to listen to a court case. After hearing the case, he would decide the verdict.

These were final verdicts, carried out immediately, without appeal, even death sentences. Also, if a nobleman had wronged a citizen, he would have the nobleman scolded and a generous settlement paid to the victim.


Those who were not satisfied with the emperor staged a coup on the 13 Dec. 1960. The coup consisted of the commander of the bodyguards, the police chief and some intellectuals. While university students rallied behind the coup, those who remained loyal to the emperor included the army, the air force and the church. As a result, this coup failed.

Almost 14 years later, on 12 Sept. 1974, the military did become involved in a coup to overthrow the emperor's regime. When the emperor heard an officer tell him that he was being deposed, Haile responded, that if the revolution is good for the people, then he, too, supports the revolution, according to the book The Emperor.

The military placed Haile under house arrest in a palace above Addis Ababa. He was guarded by soldiers so that he did not leave. Everyday he repeated what he said on the day of his capture:

'If the revolution is good for the people, then I am for the revolution.'

For almost a year, Haile remained under house arrest. An announcement was made of his death due to circulatory failure occurring on 27 Aug. 1975. Later, evidence indicated that he had been strangled on orders of the military. A military committee, based on Marxist ideologies, had been ruling since the coup.

His body was placed in a makeshift grave underneath a lavatory. In 1992, the remains were exhumed and placed in a mausoleum.

On 5 Nov. 2000, an Ethiopian royalist group held the official funeral to honor the late Emperor Haile Selassie. The funeral was held several days after the 70th anniversary (2 Nov.) of his coronation. His re-burial was in a private crypt with his wife, Empress Menen, at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa. This marks the resting place of the last emperor of Ethiopia.


Born: 23 Jul. 1892
Died: 27 Aug. 1975
Age: 83

"Where there is no lack of goodwill, all international disputes can be resolved through peaceful negotiations. . . . Our firm conviction is that all nations, whatever their political persuasions, can live together in peace."

-- Haile Selassie I

Source:  Fallen Martyrs--Ethiopia

Selassie I in usa 1  /  Selassie I in usa 2

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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Related files: Selassie at Geneva   An Ex-King Speaks  Drums of Menelik  Tafari Makonnen--Haile Selassie