REAL WAKANDA-Ethiopians Crush Italy

"Empress Taytu & Emperor Menelik Destroy THE Italian Invaders"

A true story told as a graphic book.

I am a journalist and I also teach African History at John Jay College.

Are you familiar with the African queen Taytu Betul who fought alongside her king Menelik II when Ethiopia annihilated an invading Italian army led by five generals in 1896 at the Battle of Adwa?

It was the greatest victory by an African army over a European power whose forces had come to colonize and plunder.

It's an important and inspiring history that more people must know about -- especially young Africans and African descendants all over the world. I would like to tell this story in the form of a graphic book and invite you to support my campaign. If you can't contribute at least share the information so more people can learn about this historic victory over imperialism and colonialism.

You see at the 1884 -85 Berlin Conference European powers of the day --primarily Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Portugal-- all hungry for raw resources and markets for their manufactured products carved out the African continent for themselves. Italy, which had only been unified in 1861, was a late-comer and also wanted a piece of the "magnificent African cake" as King Leopold of the Belgians referred to the resource-rich continent.

The Ethiopians would have non of it and made it known on the battlefield.

Empress Taytu Betul commanded a force of 6,000 soldiers who fired the canons, charged as infantry, and attacked as cavalry.  Her husband Negus Nagasti ("king of kings") Menelik II and other Ethiopian generals commanded tens of thousands more soldiers.

Six months before the Battle of Adwa, Gen. Oreste Baratieri, the Italian commander stood before Parliament in Rome and vowed to return with the "savage" king of Ethiopia in "a cage" like a wild animal. The Italian general mocked Ethiopia even though by the time Menelik was declared Negus Nagasti, in 1889, the ancient kingdom had already had 80 other emperors before him.

Baratieri marched to war with a 17,000-strong army equipped with the most modern weapons and commanded by four other Italian brigadiers general. There were four brigades -- three comprised of Italian professional soldiers and conscripts and one brigade commanded by Europeans with African soldiers from Eritrea which had already been annexed as an Italian colony.

Empress Taytu and Emperor Menelik prayed at the Church of St. George near Adwa at dawn on March 1, 1896. Taytu kept nodding her head forward with a stone pressed against her neck as was customary for Ethiopians during times of profound tragedy. Emperor Menelik then read a war proclamation, ending with: "...I will defend the inheritance of my forefather and drive back the invader by force of arms. Let every man who has strength accompany me -- and he who has not, let him pray for us."

The rejoinder from tens of thousands of soldiers brandishing rifles, swords, and shields, was thunderous: "For the Motherland! For the Emperor! For the Faith!"

Priests from ancient Axum held up crosses and the Ark of the Covenant and walked ahead of the troop of soldiers for a short distance before offering blessings and dispersing. Each of the leading Ethiopian generals then led their armies to their designated battlefield positions.

Before the end of the day thousands of these soldiers would be dead. The enemy would also lose thousands.

The battle started at 6 a.m. after scouts belonging to Ras Alula "Abba Nega" Engida, one of the most renowned of all the Ethiopian generals, spotted the advance Italian brigade commanded by Gen. Matteo Albertone. The Italians, who had concentrated on a higher plane, cut down charging Ethiopian soldiers with artillery. Ethiopians fired canon, while  soldiers crept slowly uphill, now and then concealing themselves behind jagged rocks, while their sharp shooters picked off Italian officers one by one.

Then troops commanded by Menelik, Taytu, Ras Mangasha, Ras Mikael, Ras Olie, Wagshum Guangul, Ras Makonen and Ras Tekla Haymanot moved in a semi-crescent pattern, that kept widening; eventually the lines enveloped  Albertone's brigade.

Some Ethiopian soldiers peeled off from the crescent to attack Gen. Vittorio Dabormida's brigade which had rushed to cover Albertone's escape route. As Albertone's brigade disintegrated Dabormida's soldiers fought furiously.

They held ground until Ras Mikael hurled forward with his men, crying "Ebugmele! Ebugmele!" (Reap! Reap!) -- his men cut down the invaders. Gen. Albertone was captured. Dabormida died on the battlefield fighting. His last action was shooting down three Ethiopian soldiers with his pistol. When he tried to kill a fourth one he was shot dead from the side.

Even as Ethiopian soldiers cut down Dabormida's army,  some of them parted in order to engage Gen. Giuseppe Arimondi's brigade and Gen. Giuseppe Ellena's reserve brigade.

By midday, the Italians had been routed and were fleeing the battlefields towards Eritrea. In the panic that ensued, Gen. Baratieri dropped his glasses. He had to be guided even as he fled. Some Italian soldiers, shocked by the turn of events, pointed their pistols against their own temple or underneath their chin and pulled the trigger. Some leapt off the mountain paths into the valleys below.

The Italians struggled to flee through the narrow and perilous mountain footpaths.

At last Menelik raised his hand and ordered a halt to the action to the disappointment of some generals who wanted to pursue and cut down every survivor.

The Italians had come to colonize Ethiopia. Instead they left their kith and kin in rivers of blood.

There were reports that some of the Italian soldiers were castrated as vanquished foes. Some reports suggest that those were rumors created to scare the Italians into dropping their weapons and fleeing. Hundreds of Eritrean captured Eritreans who fought alongside Italian soldiers were punished severely; they had the right hand and the left foot amputated.

Out of an invading army of 17,000 the Italian casualties from the rout were astonishing: 4,918 Italian soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and Eritreans fighting for Italy were dead; 261 officers, including two generals were dead; 470 Italians and 958 Eritreans wounded; 954 Italian soldiers were missing; 2,000 Italians, including one general, and 2,000 Eritreans, were captured; and, 56 artillery pieces and 11,000 rifles were captured.

The thousands of captured Italian prisoners were marched off to Addis Ababa, the new Ethiopian capital which had been founded by Empress Taytu. Ethiopian women, including some whose sons or husbands fell on the battlefield, jeered the POWS and spit on them. Some of the captives perished during the long march.

In Addis Ababa, some of the prisoners became slave-construction laborers  building the growing city. Others who were more senior who handed over for safe-keeping and to be well-fed by various prominent Ethiopian families while Empress Taytu and Emperor Menelik negotiated terms for their release.

In Italy riots broke out in the streets once news of the crushing defeat reached Rome. 100,000 people signed a petition demanding an end to the colonial enterprise. The government of Prime Minister Francesco Crispi collapsed. Italians who opposed colonialism started crying: "Viva Menelik!"

The Pope wrote a letter to Emperor Menelik begging for mercy for the prisoners.

Italy was forced by the Ethiopians to pay millions of dollars (lira) as reparations before the prisoners were released. The war officially ended when Italy and Ethiopia signed the Treaty of Addis Ababa on October 26, 1896. Under the terms of the deal, Italy promised to respect Ethiopia's independence.

The Treaty also closed one heroic chapter in Africa's resistance against colonial conquest and domination in the 19th Century.

Here's how you can help bring the graphic book to life. It will have 76 pages; 35 pages will be in color.

Your support for the campaign will allow me to (1) pay the artist (my 12 year old niece) whose sample you see below, to illustrate the book (2) pay for the layout and design of the book (3) pay to print the first 1,000 copies of the book and send one to you (4) create a dedicated website for the book.  After the first printing people will be able to pay for and order the book through the dedicated website.


1. $40 Gets you a book.

2. $50 Gets you an autographed book.

3. $75 Gets you an autographed book + a bookmarker showing Empress Taytu designed by Aly Allimadi my illustrator.

(The first picture you see below is of Empress Taytu. It's from The second image is an illustration of Taytu in middle age, drawn by Aly Allimadi my niece. The third picture is of Aly herself. The fourth illustration is of Menelik and one of his generals and relative Ras Makonnen. This image and all the ones after it are from the book "Armies of the Adowa Campaign of 1896" by Sean McLachlan. My own project will be illustrated by Aly. The fifth image shows Ethiopian soldiers. The sixth shows two defeated Italian soldiers. The seventh shows Gen. Oreste Baratieri, the Icommander in chief of the invading army who had promised to take Menelik to Rome in a cage. The rest of the images tell the same story of African victory over imperialism).

Note; Here is a link to my previous book "The Hearts of Darkness, How White Writers Created the Racist Image of Africa"

The corrected second edition of "The Hearts of Darkness..." will be ready in May 2019.

Here are two sample chapters from the graphic book Aly and I are working on:

Chapter 1: Maryam, A Future King, Is Captured

The memory of his father's humiliating defeat remained with Emperor Menelik II all the days of his life. He wanted quick revenge. It was during his years of captivity by the man who defeated his father that he gained wisdom and the value of the old saying that one must live to fight another day.

It was strange but, indeed, some of the best lessons he learned in life was when he was a prisoner at Magdalla, the mountain-top castle of Emperor Tewodros II, who vanquished his father and subjugated Shewa, his father's realm.

Menelik was baptized Sahle Maryam. He was only 10 years old when Tewodros' army descended from Magdalla in great waves. Young Sahle's father, Negus Haile Malyokot, was driven from Shewa into the woods where he hoped to rally his troops and launch counter-offensives.

Malyokot was one of several of Neguses, or kings, vying to dominate all of Ethiopia, and to declare himself Negusa Nagast, or king of kings. For centuries Ethiopia had been ruled by one such leader, the Emperor. Then there followed a long period of breakdown. Each of the many regions wanted to assert its independence. They fought each other. 

In the end it was Tewodros who came up on top. He declared himself Emperor. Tewodros had always been interested in modern weapons. He traded with European dealers for rifles and his people also made some. He even designed an artillery piece that was later constructed by his people. It would prove to be unwieldily and of no use when he was later confronted by European invaders. That was another battle.

Our story today find's Sahle's father as one of the few still resisting Tewodros' army. Then in 1855 Malyokot became gravely ill. With the weakened king unable to rally his troops his army suffered several crushing defeats at the hands of Tewodros. 

Finally, with his troops surrounded, the dying king lay beneath the shades of a tree and summoned his brother, Prince Ato, and his son, Sahle. The king's head rested on the exposed branch of a tree and a woman from a nearby village knelt next to him and gave him water to drink from a wooden cup.

"We are poor people my king," the woman said, apologizing for her humble offering. At the same time, she marveled at how mortality, at that moment, made her richer than the king. He would soon be gone and she would continue to live. 

"Before God, we are all poor," the king said, sipping from the cup.

The woman was startled by the king's comment and her hand began to shake and she spilled a little water on the king. Had he read her mind? How could that be? She apologized for spilling the water and turned her gaze away. She was ashamed that the king realized she had something he would no longer enjoy--life.   

Now both Ato and Sahle Maryam knelt beside the king. He was so weak that he could barely speak. "Take care of my boy, your new king. Preserve the independence of Shewa until my boy is ready..." Malyokot's voice faltered. He closed his eyes. He was still breathing. Then he opened his eyes again and took his son's right hand.

"Son..." the king began, but then, suddenly, he released his son's hand, closed his eyes again, and he was gone. 

The woman who had been nursing the king unleashed a loud wail. 

Maryam buried his head into his father's chest and wept.

There was no time to mourn. Tewodros' soldiers broke through the Shewans' remaining defensive line and now about 50 men had surrounded the dead king,

Ato, and Maryam. Malyokot's few remaining guards stood in a puny circle around the body of their king with swords and rifles in hand.

"Surrender or you all perish!" one of Tewodros' soldiers, mounted on a horse, ordered. Then the soldier and the men beside him moved to the side and allowed another man, also on horseback, to ride through. It was Emperor Tewodros himself.

Ato, rifle in hand, hesitated for a minute.

"Don't be a fool. You're brother is dead.  Surrender or perish," Tewodros said.

"No, don't surrender! Let's fight to the death as father would have it," young Sahle Maryam pleaded.

Ato placed his left hand on the boy's shoulder. "My king, there is a time for war and there is a time for peace." With that, Prince Ato dropped his rifle. He knelt and prostrated himself before Tewodros.

"Long live the Emperor!" Ato cried.

"Long live the Emperor!" Malyokot's few remaining men, who'd all dropped their weapons by now, cried.

Maryam also knelt before Tewodros. "Long live the Emperor!" the boy cried. 

This is how, at age 10, young Sahle Maryam, the future Emperor Menelik II, was taken prisoner.

He was marched off into 10-years captivity by Tewodros.

Maryam was a man by the time he made his escape and began his own quest to be crowned Negusa Nagast.

Chapter Two: At Magdalla, The Brave Prince Is Ready To Die

During the long march to Magdalla, Sahle Maryam saw how the bodies of Shewan soldiers and Tewodros' own fallen men had littered the countryside.

Some of the dead had arrows stuck into their neck. Some had been cut down with swords. Some were impaled on a spear.  Several had been shot dead with rifles.

More Shewan soldiers had died than Tewodros' men. Most of them had been gunned down as they charged forward. Tewodros' soldiers possessed far many more guns than then Shewan soldiers.  Sahle Maryam knew that if he lived to be king he too would equip his army with modern weapons.

The boy wondered how Tewodros planned to kill him. Would he be shot? Would his head be cut off? Would he be gored with a spear? Would he be beaten to death? The boy knew that the emperor who had just defeated his father wouldn't spare him. Why would he allow him to grow up to one day take revenge for his father's defeat?

Tewodros' men allowed a brief stop so that the Shewan prisoners could drink water from a stream along the way. Some of their captors marched alongside the prisoners. Some rode on horseback.

Many of the soldiers were allowed to return to Shewa. But many Shewan commanders and notables, along with Oromos who had been loyal to Malyokot, were marched alongside Sahle Maryam as prisoners.

The prisoners and their captors slept on the edge of the forest that night. Tewodros' soldiers did not keep a close guard. The Shewans did not try to escape. The soldiers knew that Tewodros had men marching in the rear ready to cut down any captives trying to escape. 

One of the Shewan elders who slept near the boy woke him up in the middle of the night.

"We must try to protect you," the elder whispered. That night the elder shaved off Sahle Maryam's hair. He was also given another robe to wrap himself in and a new pair of sandals.

The next morning when he was awakened Sahle Maryam was surprised to see that nine other boys had also had their heads shaven. They also wore a robe and sandals similar to his. It was hard to tell who was who. 

The hardest part of the march was once they reached the foot of the hill upon which rested Tewodros' castle. From below they could see that parts of the castle were covered by clouds. How long would it take to reach the mountaintop? The boy did not know how far he had already walked.

Soon the towering castle was before him. The great gate was slowly lowered by the guards and the long convoy of prisoners trooped in with the soldiers.

The first night all the prisoners slept outdoors on the vast castle ground. Early the next morning four soldiers approached the prisoners. 

"Which one of you is the boy Sahle Maryam?" one of the soldiers asked.

There was complete silence. None of the Shewan captives were willing to betray their late king's son.

The soldier unsheathed his sword.

"I will only ask one more time. Which one if you is Sahle Maryam?" the soldier again demanded.

This time 10 young boys, all aged between eight and 12 years, stepped forward. They all looked like identical brothers.

"I am Sahle Maryam!" each one of the boys said.

"Very well then," Tewodros' soldier said. "Let's see how many heads it will take to find out the truth."

He stepped forward into the crowd and grabbed a Shewan woman by her hair and dragged her forward and threw her to the ground. The woman and others screamed when the soldier straddled the woman between his legs. He grabbed the hilt of his sword with both hands, raised it, with the blade directed at the woman trapped between his legs. The woman cried in terror.

"Spare her! I am the one you want," Sahle Maryam cried, stepping forward from the group.

One woman fainted. Some men stepped forward shouting in protest. One of the soldiers stepped toward them and leveled the barrel of his rifle into the crowd. 

"Step back or you will die like flies. Did you not see what our rifles did to your men?"

The prisoners stopped immediately.

Young Sahle knelt before the soldier with the sword. He lowered his head and exposed the back of his head. He did not want his people to remember him as a cowardly prince.

"I am ready to join my beloved father," the boy said.

There was complete silence from the crowd. 

"Arise! Come with us!" the soldier with the sword ordered. 

Many in the crowd began to cry again.

Prince Sahle Maryam was led away.

Where would they take the boy? Would they behead him?

Chapter 3: How The Boy Prince Became A Man  [To Come]

Chapter 4: Maryam Marries A Woman He Doesn't Love, Tewodros' Daughter  [To Come]


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  • Darrian Davis 
    • $20 
    • 8 mos
  • Elias Wondimu 
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    • 17 mos
  • Eyob Tessema 
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  • Elyse Wood 
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    • 18 mos
  • Mohammed Nurhussein 
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    • 18 mos

Organizer and beneficiary 

Milton Allimadi 
Bronx, NY
Andrew Allimadi 
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