Early Ethiopians in America
By Bawza Staff December 12, 2013
By Andrew Laurence
If it were not for a photograph published in the April 2006 U.S. National Park Service Calendar, we may never know about a group of Ethiopians who came to America in 1909. The photographer, Augustus Sherman, was a Registry Clerk on Ellis Island, the port of entry for millions of immigrants to the U.S. He would often take pictures in his spare time of immigrants that had to stay over for medical clearance, further interrogation, or to be picked up by sponsors.
The posed photograph depicts what may be an extended family of purported Borana Ethiopians in traditional dress waiting to be processed for immigration to the U.S. One can only guess what it would have been like for these rural southwest Ethiopian natives who would have had no knowledge of the outside world to comprehend what their future would hold for them. To make the long trek to the African coast and then a month long ocean journey by ship to the New World would have been beyond their imagination. Landing in New York with no understanding of America, the people, food, weather or way of life only adds to the mystery of what they might have been told about where they were going and what they will be doing.