Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 481–505 | Cite as

The Lure of Ethiopia and the Saga of Colonel John Robinson, 1935–1937

  • David MayersEmail author
Original Article


This essay is centered on the Ethiopian resistance to the Italian invasion of 1935–1936. Among other impacts, this war greatly disturbed African-American activists. They perceived in this uneven contest an extension of their own struggle against white domination, both at home and abroad. Despite forbidding obstacles, John Charles Robinson—black aviation pioneer from deep Dixie—journeyed to Ethiopia. There he led its small air force in battle against Italian conquest. In fighting for an African nation, he also advanced the cause of civil rights in the United States. Woven into this essay are ideas and interpretations developed by W. E. B. Du Bois in his famous study—The Souls of Black Folk—helpful to framing and grasping the Robinson tale. Overall, the essay sits at the intersection of African-American history, aviation history, and the international politics/U.S. foreign relations of the mid-1930s.


John Charles Robinson W. E. B. Du Bois Haile Selassie Tuskegee Institute “Night in Mississippi” (poem) Mussolini League of Nations Herbert Fauntleroy Julian The Souls of Black Folk Malaku Bayen William Leo Hansberry Curtiss–Wright Aviation School Imperial Ethiopian Air Force William Miller Cramp 



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Copyright information

© The Editor of the Journal 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Boston UniversityBostonUSA

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