[PW] Ethiopians (was: New York Times Article About Earliest Use of Term "African-American")

T.F. Mills phasco at earthlink.net
Thu Apr 23 23:40:30 PDT 2015


A footnote to Fred's discovery of the earliest known use of the term "African-American" going 
back to 1782.

Another term then synonymous with Negro was "Ethiopian."  The etymology goes back to the 
ancient Greeks who used it this way.  The OED offers several examples of this usage.  
Although the ancient world's contact with subsaharan Africa was largely through the Nile valley 
into the country we now call Ethiopia, that country was predominantly known through the 19th 
century as Abyssinia.

The Bible refers to Philip evangelizing an "Ethiopian" (Acts 8), but the context is also clear that 
this man was a treasury official "of the Kandake (which means 'queen of the Ethiopians')."  
That means Kingdom of Kush, which is the modern Sudan/Ethiopia region.  At least one 
ancient dynasty of Egypt came from this region.  We now call them the "black pharaohs."

In 1775 the Earl of Dunmore as last royal Governor of Virginia issued a proclamation promising 
freedom to slaves of American rebels if they would fight with the British.  Tens of thousands of 
slaves fled their masters throughout the colonies, seriously disrupting the economy of the 
south.  Dunmore was able to instantly form a battalion known as the "Ethiopian Regiment" (in 
which there was doubtless not a single Abyssinian.)  At the end of the war, the British 
evacuated some 5000 African-American loyalists to Nova Scotia.  (For context, it is worth 
noting that Britain had abolished slavery at home but not in its colonies before the American 
Revolution - 1772.)

T.F. Mills 
(Colorado, USA)




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