In the week or so that I’ve been doing my research on African-American participation in the Italo-Ethiopian War, I’ve discovered a very important fact about historical research: it’s messy. It doesn’t always go the way that you’ve planned.
In 1935, the expansionist Italian regime invaded Ethiopia. Although this attack on one of the only self-governing African kingdoms was somewhat ignored by the world powers, it led to a great outpouring of sympathy among African-Americans, to whom Ethiopia held special significance due to positive Biblical references. While blacks followed the war in African-American newspapers and founded societies to offer financial aid, some African-Americans went further, volunteering to actually fight in the conflict. Although African-Americans were threatened with loss of citizenship if they enlisted, at least two African-American aviators made it to the conflict.