The battle of Adwa of 1 March 1896 was a stunning victory for Ethiopia but a rout and a disaster for Italy. Adwa – the story of Africans seeing to their own freedom – played out against a background of almost unrelenting European expansion into Africa. The success of Ethiopia’s forces assured that Ethiopia would be the only African country successfully to resist European colonization before 1914. It also resonated powerfully in post-Emancipation America where hierarchies of race and ethnicity were only beginning a process of challenge and renegotiation. Italian interest in East Africa dates from 1869, when the opening of the Suez Canal transformed the commercial and strategic significance of the Red Sea coast. An official Italian presence didn’t begin until they established themselves at the Red Sea port of Massawa in 1885, after which the Italians began to move up into what are now the Eritrean highlands. Ethiopian commanders sought to halt the Italian advance, with some notable successes, but the Italians artfully played on rivalries among Ethiopian leaders. By 1890, the Italians had secured control over a significant territory west and south of Massawa; they announced the creation of the colony of Eritrea, with a capital at Asmara.