— On this date on March 7, 1775, British whip party politician and historian Horace Walpole wrote:
“There may come a time, however, when I may wash my Ethiopianism white, but that time I never wish to live to see, because if I do, I must survive the majority of my friends.”
This appears to be oldest printed known usage of the proper noun called “Ethiopianism”.
Whether Horace Walpole can take credit for coining this word is open for debate. What he implied is also subject to interpretation.
The actual term Ethiopianism was widely used later in the South African press in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
It [Ethiopianism] was described as a menacing threat to the European colonialists.
Native African evangelists such as Henry Reed Ngcayiya and Mangena Mokone began rallying the natives by identifying them as the glorious Biblical Ethiopians.
Citing Kevin Meehan, “Ethiopianism is based on the rhetorical practice of articulating Ethiopian references in the bible that had a liberating promise and that when contrasted with the indignities of plantation bondage, showed black people in a dignified and humane light. The international scope of Ethiopianism is impressive.” (Source: “People Get Ready: African American and Caribbean Cultural Exchange.”
But there is also an overlooked legacy of Ethiopianism that occurred even earlier in the Western Hemisphere during the American Revolution. The British Governor of Virginia Lord Dunmore hatched a scheme of promising to give African slaves freedom in exchange if they fought alongside the British against the American revolutionaries.
This became known as the Ethiopian Regiment.
And although the British lost, those black soldiers, fleeing with the British, were allowed to move to a new home : Jamaica.
(Photo: Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Oxford (24 September 1717 – 2 March 1797) was an English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician. He was also the son of Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. Walpole maybe one of the earliest recorded individual to coin or use the term “Ethiopianism “)