John Robinson – A Hero in US-Ethiopian Relations

HistoJR2ry is full of wonderful stories, and the history that ties Ethiopia to the United States is no exception. One such story is the story of John Robinson, an African American who became Commander of the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force during Ethiopia’s fight against Italian occupation in the 1930’s.

John Charles Robinson was born in 1903 and grew up in a segregated part of the U.S.  In 1910, he saw his first aircraft, and young John knew he wanted to fly, and he set out to overcome the obstacles of segregation.  He worked hard, excelled at school and never let disappointment overcome his determination to fly.

He enrolled in the Tuskegee Institute, an African-American university founded by Booker T. Washington. Robinson earned his degree, but even then opportunities for African Americans were severely limited in the south, so he moved north. Up north, he became an exceptionally good mechanic, and he wanted to enroll in the Curtiss-Wright Aviation School, but black students were not welcome at the time.  His passion to fly was so strong he signed on as a nighttime janitor in a Curtiss-Wright classroom.  The instructor noticed him and realized how determined John was, and persuaded the school to let him in as the school’s first African American student.

After graduation, John formed his own flying school for young black men and women to become pilots. The success of his school came to the attention of a relative of Haile Selassie, and King Haile Selassie was just then looking for help in his fight against the Italians.   Selassie invited Robinson to come to Ethiopia to head the Imperial Air Force.

Ultimately, the Italians conquered Ethiopia, but only temporarily.  Haile Selassie escaped to England and John Robinson to America. After the war, Haile Selassie invited Robinson back to Ethiopia, first to rebuild his Air Force, then to help create Ethiopian Airlines and train its very first pilots.

John Robinson died in a plane crash in 1954 in Ethiopia bringing an injured boy from rural Ethiopia to Addis. He died as he lived, with a total commitment to Ethiopia and its people. He was given a state funeral and is buried in Gulele Cemetery.

JR3

In honor of John Robinson, the U.S. Embassy dedicated a reading garden to commemorate John Robinson. The ceremony was attended by former Ethiopian President Girma, a close friend of Robinson, and Henok Tefera of Ethiopian Airlines.  Both spoke movingly about John Robinson’s contributions to Ethiopia.

ጆን ሮብንሰን፡-የኢትዮ-አሜሪካ የሁለትዮሽ ግንኙነት ጀግና

JR!እንደማንኛውም ታሪክ ሁሉ የኢትዮጵያና የአሜሪካ የሁለትዮሽ ግንኙነት ታሪክ በአስደናቂ ሁነቶች የተሞላ ነው፡፡ ከነዚህም አንዱ የጆን ሮብንሰን ታሪክ ነው፤ጆን ሮብንሰን በንጉሠ ነገሥቱ ዘመነ መንግሥት የኢትዮጵያ አየር ኃይል አዛዥ በመሆን የጣሊያን ወራሪ ኃይልን ለመመከት በ1920ዎቹ የተደረገውን ጦርነት የመሩ ጥቁር አሜሪካዊ ነበሩ፡፡

ጆን ቻርለስ ሮብንሰን 1895 የተወለዱ ሲሆን፤ዕድገታቸው የዘር መድሎ በበረታበት የአሜሪካ ግዛት ነበር፡፡ በ1902 ዓ.ም. ጆን ለመጀመሪያ ጊዜ አውሮፕላን የማየት ዕድል ካገኙ በኋላ የማብረር ፍላጎት አደረባቸው፡፡ ይህንን ህልማቸውን እውን ለማድረግና ዘረኝነትን ለማሸነፍ ጠንክረው ሠሩ፤በትምህርታቸውም ልቀው በመገኘትና በሚገጥሟቸው አስቸጋሪ ሁኔታዎች ተስፋ ሳይቆርጡ የማብረር ህልማቸውን አሳኩ፡፡

በመቀጠልም በቡከር ቲ. ዋሽንግተን በመሠረቱት ተስኪጊ ኢንስቲትዩት ወደተሰኘ የጥቁር አሜሪካውያን ዩኒቨርስቲ ገቡ፡፡ ሮብንሰን ዲግሪያቸውን ካገኙ በኋላ በደቡብ የሀገሪቱ ክፍል ጥቁሮች የሥራ ዕድል ስለማያገኙ ወደ ሰሜን ለማቅናት ተገደዱ፡፡ በዛም ድንቅ የመካኒክነት ችሎታ በማሳየት ከርተስ ራይት የበረራ ትምህርት ቤት የመግባት ፍላጎት ቢሳዩም በወቅቱ ትምህርት ቤቱ ጥቁር ተማሪዎችን አይቀበልም ነበር፡፡ ጆን ሮብንሰን ካላቸው ከፍተኛ የማብረር ጉጉት የተነሳ በከርተስ ራይት የምሽት ፈረቃ የመማሪያ ክፍሎች የጽዳት ሠራተኛ በመሆን ተቀጠሩ፡፡ መምህራቸው የጆንን ቁርጠኝነት በመመልከት ጆን እንዲመዘገቡ ከፈቀደላቸው በኋላ በትምህርት ቤቱ የመጀመሪያው ጥቁር አሜሪካዊ ተማሪ ሆኑ፡፡

ከትምህርት ቤቱ ከተመረቁ በኋላ ጆን ጥቁር ወንድና ሴት ተማሪዎች የማብረር ሥልጠና የሚወስዱበትን የራሳቸውን ትምህርት ቤት አቋቋሙ፡፡ የትምህርት ቤታቸውን ዝና አፄ ኃይለሥላሴ ከአንድ ዘመዳቸው ሰምተው፤ከጣሊያኖች ጋር በሚደረገው ጦርነት እገዛ የሚፈልጉበት ወቅት ስለነበረ አየር ኃይሉን እንዲመሩላቸው ለጆን ሮብንሰን ግብዣ አቀረቡላቸው፡፡

በስተመጨረሻም ለአጭር ጊዜም ቢሆን ኢትዮጵያ በጣሊያኖች እጅ ወደቀች፡፡ አፄ ኃይለሥላሴ ወደ እንግሊዝ ሲሰደዱ ጆን ሮብንሰንም አሜሪካ ገቡ፡፡ ጦርነቱ ከተጠናቀቀ በኋላ ንጉሡ ጆን ሮብንሰን ወደ ኢትዮጵያ ተመልሰው አየር ኃይሉን መልሰው እንዲያቋቁሙና የኢትዮጵያን አየር መንገድ በመመሥረትም ሆነ የመጀመሪያዎቹን አብራሪዎች በማሠልጠኑ ረገድ እገዛ እንዲያደርጉ በድጋሚ ጋበዟቸው፡፡

በ1946 ዓ.ም. ጆን ሮብንሰን አንድ ጉዳት የደረሰበት ልጅ ከገጠር ወደ አዲስ አበባ በማምጣት ላይ ሳሉ ባጋጠማቸው የአውሮፕላን አደጋ ህይወታቸው ሊያልፍ ችሏል፡፡ አሟሟታቸውም በህይወት ሳሉ ኢትዮጵያና ህዝቧን ለማገልገል የነበራቸው ቁርጠኝነት የተንፀባረቀበት ነበር፡፡ የቀብር ሥነሥርዓታቸውም በመንግሥት ደረጃ ተደርጎ በጉለሌ መካነ መቃብር ተፈፅሟል፡፡

የአሜሪካ ኤምባሲ ለጆን ሮብንሰን መታሰቢያ ይሆን ዘንድ ለንባብ የሚያገለግል የአትክልት ሥፍራ ሰይሞላቸዋል፡፡ በመታሰቢያ ሥነ JR3ሥርዓቱ ላይ የጆን ሮብንሰን የቅርብ ጓደኛቸው የነበሩት የቀድሞ የኢትዮጵያ ፕሬዚዳንት ግርማ ወልደጊዮርጊስና ከኢትዮጵያ አየር መንገድ ሔኖክ ተፈራ ተገኝተዋል፡፡ ሁለቱም በንግግራቸው ጆን ሮብንሰን ለኢትዮጵያ ያበረከቱትን አስተዋጽኦ ልብ በሚነካ መልኩ ነበር ያቀረቡት፡፡

Click here for full remarks by Ambassador Patricia Haslach

4 thoughts on “John Robinson – A Hero in US-Ethiopian Relations

  1. We Africans have a tendency to forget the deeds of our black Hero. I had a chance to write about John Robinson. he is a real African hero. His dedication for Mother Africa, his commitment to train Ethiopians and fight against Fascist Italy is very inspiring. when the Aviation Industry was close for Africans, the young Robinson had paid all the sacrifice to learn about flying. After graduating, Robinson had all the opportunity to to live in America prestigiously, however, he preferred to come to Ethiopia to fight the fascist Italians wiz his reconnaissance machine. He died in Ethiopia. But, we buried his history together with his body. Fortunately, he is now risen wiz his good deeds. who can bury the story of good works? No one…!!

    GOD BLESS Ethiopia

    Like

  2. We Africans have a tendency to forget the deeds of our black Hero. I had a chance to write about John Robinson. he is a real African hero. His dedication for Mother Africa, his commitment to train Ethiopians and fight against Fascist Italy is very inspiring. when the Aviation Industry was close for Africans,for this reason, the young Robinson had paid all the sacrifice to learn about flying. After graduating, Robinson had all the opportunity to to live in America prestigiously, however, he preferred to come to Ethiopia to fight the facist Italinas wiz his reconnaissance machine. He did in Ethiopia. But, we buried his history together with his body. Fortunately, he is now risen wiz his good deeds. who can bury the story of good works? No one…!!

    GOD BLESS Ethiopia

    Like

  3. Please name a school or a street in Addis Ababa for his love and service of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. I will love to see Assab that is unjustifiably given to Eritrea to be reclaimed by Ethiopia and the Air port to be named after this great African American.or there are too many names given to schools after the Late Prime Minister Melesse Zenawi’s or Haileselassies or Mengistu, Hailemariam dedicate one of them to this great man.

    Thank you.
    Mesfinachew Abbai Kassa.

    Like

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