By Dino Robinson
The movie Coming to America was a comedy romance story of an African Prince who came to America in disguise in search of his future wife of his equal. Starring comedians Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, I though it was very entertaining with a happy ending. A real life coming to America happened at the peak of several historical global events, and it involved a young woman from Evanston, who while at Howard University, met her prince and together began a movement.
Dorothy also served as War Correspondent for the African-American press under the title “Princess Malaku Bayen”
Born in Evanston, Illinois on November 20, 1906 to Joseph and Dora Hadley, Dorothy attended Foster School and Evanston Township High School. She later attended, graduated from and found employment at Howard University as secretary to the budget director.
Born 1900 in Ethiopia to Grazmac Bayyan and Waysaro Dästa, Malaky Bayen was the second cousin to Haili Salasi. As part of an initiative to build better relationships with American Blacks, he and two other peers left for the United States to expand their education. After attending several universities, Malaku finished medicine at Howard University.
It was at Howard where Malaku formally annulled his engagement to a daughter of the Ethiopian Foreign Minister and met his future wife, Dorothy, as she handed him his registration card. Dorothy and Malaku were married, 1931 in Fairfax, Virginia. In 1933, the couple welcomed their son, Malaku Bayen, Jr.
For several years, the family lived in Adis Ababa. Living in several locations while Dr. Bayen was out on the battlefields and serving the Emperor in a variety of capacities, Dorothy tended to home life around town and at the palace. Dorothy also served as War Correspondent for the African-American press under the title “Princess Malaku Bayen”. In several letters to family members in the U.S., Dorothy explained several daily activities and events:
“. . . we had an engagement to meet Their Majesties at 4:30 in the afternoon. Malaku, of course, had been to the palace scores of times since we came. . .There are two palaces, or as they are called “gibbee”, the upper, and the lower. . . Her Majesty and Sahai (her daughter) met us in a room furnished with gold and brocaded furniture, Louis XIV style (I think). . . I felt foolish bowing and backing out and so forth, seein’ as I have had so little practice in this sort of thing, and every minute I was afraid I would get my feet all tangled up in my long skirt and go sprawling out on the floor. Wouldn’t that have been something?”
By 1936 the Emperor, in an effort to gain global support for Ethiopia battling an illegal invasion by Italy, sent a new team to the United States to appeal to the League of Nations and elsewhere in support of relief to Ethiopian refugees in Kenya, Uganda, Jerusalem and Egypt. Dr. Malaku Beyan was the lead contact in the United States. This effort led to the establishment of a new movement.
Dr. Malaku and Dorothy Beyen together created a newspaper called Voice of Ethiopia that served to both denounce Jim Crow in America and the fascist invasion in Ethiopia. A pamphlet entitled The Real Facts About Ethiopia, recounted an uncompromising report on the destruction caused by Italian troops in Ethiopia. Dr. Beyan used the pamphlet in his speaking tours, while his wife Dorothy designed and passed out pins that read “Save Ethiopia”.
As you know, our fault and our weakness has been in the fact that we will not unite.
Under the work of the Haile Selassie Fund, Dr. and Mrs. Bayen worked out of the Rex Hotel on West 47th Street in New York, NY. on an on-going fundraising campaign. In another undated handwritten letter, Dorothy writes:
“. . .As you know, we are trying to get funds, and our system is this — Malaku makes lectures, and people make contributions in envelopes. I bring these envelopes home and write up receipts for each one . . . We have been living downtown at the Rex Hotel 106 W. 47th St, to give the nordics a chance to aid us if they wished. We didn’t want them to say “You went up to Harlem to the blacks to get help from them – not us.” That is the reason we located down there. In the five weeks there, we got $7 from whites and around $1,700 from blacks so we decided that they do not intend to help. It is my belief that the redemption of Ethiopia lies within the hands of the black peoples of the world and that the unity of all the black peoples and the redemption of Ethiopia are convergent(?) problems. As you know, our fault and our weakness has been in the fact that we will not unite.”
As the movement grew, activities led to the formation of the Ethiopian World Federation, Incorporated in 1937. The original founders were Goulbourne M. Blackett, Matthew E. Gardner and Dorothy H. Bayen, Aida Bastian, Edora Paris, Warren Harrigan and Louis Paul. Dr. Lorenzo H. King, pastor of St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Harlem, was elected as the first president of the organization.
After a nearly a year long battle with illness, Dr. Bayen passed away on May 4, 1940. However, to this day, both the Voice of Ethiopia (in new formats and media), and The Ethiopian World Federation continues its work. The Federation has since become an important factor in the Rastafarian movement. Dorothy Bayen relocated to Washington D.C. with her son Malaku Jr. (also known as Chip). Dorothy Bayen passed away on April 7, 1988.
As titled in a 1931 News-Index paper, “An Evanstonian in Ethiopia as Wife of Native Prince”, Dorothy was more than a wife and mother. Dorothy H. Bayen helped a movement take root un the United States and played her part in world humanitarian movements.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: He-N page 691.
Yale University Library Manuscripts and Archives, The Dorothy Hadley Bayen Papers, 1931-47.
CCC News, Thursday, April 19, 1984, Vol 15, No 16, pg 1. reprint of the 1931 Evanston News-Index, “An Evanstonian in Ethiopia as Wife of Native Prince”
Note: In research, I found two spellings, Melaku and Malaku. From personal letters, Malaku was consistent. There were variations of spelling of the last name as well. Beyan and Bayen. 6/10/14 – “‘Melaku Beyan’ is how Ethiopians pronounce and spell the full name of the remarkable Dr. Melaku”—Tewodros Abebe, Senior Archivist, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.