By Carol Ann Gillespie

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The heart of Aksum was in the highlands of what is today northern Ethiopia and part of neighboring Eritrea. Its major urban centers were at Aksum, a city in northern Ethiopia, and Adulis, a Red Sea port. Earlier centers, such as Yeha, also continued to flourish. At the kingdom’s height, it extended along the Red Sea from Sawakin in present-day Sudan in the north to Berbera in present-day Somalia in the south. Aksum also reached as far inland as the Nile Valley in modern Sudan. The growth of imperial traditions continued as the empire’s foreign holdings expanded.

Earlier, in 1919, as regent, Tafari tried to gain membership for Ethiopia in the League of Nations, but was refused because of the existence of slavery in the country. He banned the slave trade in 1923, and Ethiopia was then unanimously elected to the League. In 1924, Ethiopia passed laws that gradually freed all slaves and their children. Slavery had long been practiced in Ethiopia, as well as in a number of other African countries. Most slaves worked in households, where they were considered second-class members of the family.

At that time, Menelik, a ruler of Shoa in central Ethiopia, was gaining strength. With Italian support, he was able to seize the throne after the death of Emperor Johannes IV in 1889. Menelik successfully extended his empire. At the same time, though, European Early History King Menelik II (center), who lived from 1844 to 1913, took over the throne of Ethiopia in 1889, with Italy’s help. During his reign, Menelik tried to modernize the country and to use his dealings with the strong nations of Europe to bring Ethiopia advantages.

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