Getahun, Solomon Addis. The History of Ethiopian Immigrants and Refugees in America, 1900-2000. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing LLC , 2007.
Immigration and migration have always been part of the human experience. For the past half-century, there has been an influx of historiographical works and studies about different groups and their immigration patterns. One group, however, has been extremely neglected: the Ethiopian immigrants. Approximately between 1950 and 1990, there have been a total of over 350,000 immigrants from Ethiopia that have come to America. Despite this, there is little information about the history of Ethiopian immigration. Solomon Addis Getahun realized this, and in his book The History of Ethiopian Immigrants and Refugees in America, 1900-2000 he explains the story of the immigrants from Ethiopia and other nations from the African horn.
The first section of the book covers the history of the relationship between the United States and Ethiopia. Getahun states that the relationship between the two nations has been on an up and down cycle for the past fifty years. However, despite the souring of the relationship, Ethiopian immigration to the United States continued to grow following the end of World War II. The other key point he wanted to get across in this section is the fact that most of the Ethiopian immigrants came to America to study and to get a better education. Getahun looks at the book The History of Ethiopian Immigrants in the United States, 1950s-1990s. This book, much like Getahun’s book, covers the history of Ethiopian immigration while going more in-depth about the certain stages and periods in its history.
The second section of the book covers the ethnic makeup of Ethiopia and the establishment of Ethiopian community organizations, both of which are necessary to understand Ethiopian immigration to the United States. Getahun states that the second round of Ethiopian immigrants to the United States, those that came in the 1980s, were political refugees fleeing the mass killings and utter destruction caused by the Derg. He also mentions that due to the differences between the immigration waves, a cultural generation gap began to emerge in America amongst Ethiopian immigrants. The development of the Ethiopian-American culture led to the establishment of community organizations that protect and preserve the Ethiopian culture. Getahun says that these organizations were mostly founded to protect the Ethiopian Orthodox church, which is the oldest established sect of Christianity (some say the Ethiopian branch was established around 332 C.E.). He states that even though the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches have long been established in the United States, their doctrines are far different than those of the Ethiopian church. Because of this, Ethiopians could not attend these churches. The lack of places of worship for Ethiopian immigrants led to community leaders to create organizations and community centers.
The third and final section of the book covers the impact that Ethiopian-Americans have had on Ethiopia and the legacy of the “second generation”. Getahun states that due to the advancements in communication technology, it is much easier to stay in touch with family across the globe. Getahun uses the development of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa and around the Bole International Airport as key points, saying that the continued work of Ethiopians abroad has led to the development of a tourism industry. He also cites the development of the tourism industry to the “second generation”, the children of these Ethiopian immigrants. Getahun says that these children have contributed to the knowledge and legacy of Ethiopia abroad, which is causing more and more people to be interested in the African nation.
I do have some complaints and criticisms about the book. One complaint is that most of the book leaves out information about immigrant women, who play as much as a role as the men. Another complaint that I have is that most of the sentences and phrases in the book could have been worded differently. Despite my concerns, the book does succeed in the goal that Getahun had set for it. The book does indeed tell the much-needed story of Ethiopian immigration to the United States, but it also tells us the reasons why the Ethiopians came to America in the first place. Getahun, while getting the main point across in this book, wants us to continue to do more research about Ethiopian immigration, which I think is important to do.