The Background

Emperor Haile Selassie

Emperor Haile Selassie

Black Americans organized dozens of groups designed to raise both moral and material assistance for the Ethiopian Government. Black people in the United states were motivated largely by their racial identification with the Ethiopians and the longstanding symbolic importance of that country in the Black American community.

Although the majority of the black community sympathized with the plight of Ethiopia, there were those who sought to use the situation to their own benefit. From the very outbreak of hostilities black embezzlers and racketeers sought to take advantage of the American sympathy for the Ethiopian people.

These criminals gave the public impression that they were collecting funds for Ethiopia’s defence, but in reality they were lining their own pockets. In addition, some responsible organizations and individuals may have engaged in faulty business practices or even mismanaged funds.

To remedy this situation and more effectively to co-ordinate the efforts of the organisations in New York, a number of public- spirited black citizens in Harlem formed the ‘ Menelik Club’ some time during 1936. This very small but active group desired to integrate all the existing Ethiopian Aid Societies into one organization officially recognized by the Ethiopian authorities.

The Communist Party later infiltrated the Menelik Club, but the efforts of the Club culminated in the sending of a black American delegation to England in the summer of 1936 to confer directly with H.I.M Emperor Haile Selassie I. The mission consisted of three prominent Harlem figures, all leaders of the black organization known as the ‘United Aid for Ethiopia.’
Rev William Lloyd Imes, Pastor of the prestigious St James Presbyterian Church; Phillip M Savory, Chairman of Victory Insurance Company and co-owner of the New York Amsterdam news, and Mr. Cyril M Phillip, Secretary of the United Aid were the delegates who went to Bath to entreaty Emperor Haile Selassie I.

H.I.M Emperor Haile Selassie I cordially received the delegation at his residence in Bath. During the audience, the delegation informed H.I.M that large sums of money had been, and were still being, raised in the United States by unauthorized persons in the name of Ethiopia.

They stressed the necessity of sending a special emissary to America to direct the collection of all contributions and to help awaken flagging Afro-American support for the Ethiopian cause.

Impressed, Emperor Haile Selassie I decided to dispatch an envoy to the United States. He selected his personal physician and nephew Dr Malaku Emanuel Bayen, who established along with others and with the blessing of, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, the Constitution of the Ethiopian World Federation Incorporated on the 25th day of August 1937.