In U.S. New Museum Honors African American Pilot Who Fought for Ethiopia

When the Italo-Ethiopian war broke out in the 1930's Col. John C. Robinson, an American aviator and activist, left his family in the U.S. and went to Ethiopia to fight alongside the Ethiopians. He was celebrated as the "Brown Condor" for his heroic service in the Ethiopian Air Force against Fascist Italy. (Courtesy of International Council for the Commemoration of Col. John C. Robinson)

Tadias Magazine

By Taias Staff

Published: August 19th, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — American pilot Col. John C. Robinson, who was nicknamed “The Brown Condor” is best known for his heroic commanding of the Ethiopian Air Force during the country’s legendary war against Fascist Italy in the 1930′s. Col. Robinson, who was also known as the “Father of the Tuskegee Airmen,” was one of many African Americans who had volunteered to assist Ethiopia in its time of need during Wold War II.

Now a new museum called the Brown Condor Mississippi Heritage Aviation Museum is scheduled to open in the city of Gulfport, Mississippi. “John C. Robinson is the reason we are building this museum,” the project manager, Francisco Gonzalez told local media, noting that Colonel Robinson is one of many featured aviation heroes from throughout the state. “We wanted to honor him-an African-American-first one to fight in combat in a foreign land.” Gonzalez added: “He fought for the Ethiopian Air Force when they were being invaded by Mussolini. He grew up in Gulfport during the Segregation era. He fell in love with aviation when he saw a pilot land in Gulfport’s Jones Park. He told his father he was going to be a pilot.”

According to Ethiopian historian Ayele Bekerie: “When the Italo-Ethiopian War erupted, [Robinson] left his family and went to Ethiopia to fight alongside the Ethiopians. In his book The Sons of Sheba’s Race: African-Americans and the Italo-Ethiopian War, 1935-1941 (Blacks in the Diaspora) William R. Scott, who conducted thorough research in documenting the life and accomplishments of John Robinson, wrote about his ability to overcome racial barriers to go to an aviation school in the United States. In Ethiopia, Robinson served as a courier between Haile Selassie and his army commanders in the war zone.”

The International Council for the Commemoration of Col. John C. Robinson, which was established a few years ago to help promote his legacy in Ethiopia and the U.S. notes: “Col. John C. Robinson was an inspiring African American aviation pioneer and a brave Ethiopian war hero. He was instrumental in the formation of what was to become the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII fame, led Ethiopian Air Forces against Italian aggression, and trained numerous military and civilian pilots for Ethiopia. Among his many accomplishments, he established the first African American owned airline and pilot school in Chicago, USA, and founded the American Institute School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After sacrificing his life for Ethiopia, Col. Robinson is finally receiving his due recognition.” Robinson died in a plane crash in Ethiopia in 1954. He is buried at Gullele cemetery in Addis Ababa.”

Per WXXV-TV, the new museum “doesn’t just showcase relics and heroes’ tales. There are plenty of photo ops for everyone and interactive, hands-on exhibits to learn from and train our aviation heroes of tomorrow…They will learn the importance of flying an airplane.”

The Brown Condor Mississippi Heritage Aviation Museum is scheduled to open in late September.

Related:

Brown Condor Mississippi Heritage Aviation Museum set to open soon

From Tadias Archives: African American & Ethiopia Relations

Ethiopian & African American Relations: The Case of Melaku Bayen & John Robinson

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