"Menelik II created the country of Ethiopia as we know it today and united the people in order to fight against the invading Italians who were late to the Colonial race and wanted to create an Italian East African empire. He assembled the largest army in Ethiopian history at the time of over 100,000 soldiers of both men and women.
It wasn’t just the sheer size of the army that was impressive but the fact that every ethnicity was represented and led by the generals and princes of their region. They knew if they were not united they would not be strong, they knew they had to fight for their lands, their homes, their families, and their independence.
This army marched to Adwa in northern Ethiopia with Menelik at the head and his wife accompanying him leading her own battalion of soldiers
The Italian army tried to launch a surprise 3 column strike at night but the Ethiopians were ready and surrounded them and destroyed them in one night with barely any casualties. Ethiopia won its independence and Italian Colonial ambition was dead. They were shouting “Viva Menelik!” in the streets of Rome, the people of Italy wanted their soldiers home and thousands of Italian citizens signed petitions to remove their army from the horn of Africa. The Pope even sent letters to Menelik asking to please release Italian POWs.
Adwa put Ethiopia on the world stage. Ethiopia resisted colonialism and defeated a European colonial power and retained its freedom. Racially it was a victory of black over white. Adwa shocked Europeans and encouraged people of color all over the world being oppressed by Europeans like the United States with the Jim Crow laws at the time, and Apartheid in South Africa.
Psychologically Adwa has given the Ethiopian people a deep rooted sense of pride and independence which continues to live on in the hearts of the future generations. I am no exception. These are the stories I heard growing up and the stories I’ll tell my children one day….”
—-Elsh talking about Menelik on the Selam Project