As I am continuing with my research, I have found that so many historical events contributed to the Jamaicans’ view of Haile Selassie as a “god”. For example, a seemingly unconnected event, the foundation of the UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association) by Marcus Garvey, a black rights activist in 1914, indirectly influenced this phenomenon as well. Garvey’s objectives were to claim or reclaim a black identity of pride, freedom, and autonomy through education, organization, and centralization. For example, one of his mottos was “One God, One Aim, One Destiny”. A direct quote from Garvey, before he traveled to England, was “Look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is at hand”. After receiving acclaim in the United States, Marcus Garvey also found a following in Jamaica after he organized strikes in the ports to seek better rights for black workers. These Jamaican followers called themselves Garveyites, and were the forefathers of the Rastafari movement. Garvey’s quote was then used as a prophesy by Rastafari.
On November 2, 1930, Tafari Makonnen was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie, which means “Power of the Trinity”. His other titles included “Lord of Lords”, “Prince of Peace”, and “Root of David”. International media heavily covered his coronation, and his cover of TIME and National Geographic magazines reached Jamaica.
In June 1936, Haile Selassie, this Ethiopian man of small stature, went to speak in front of the League of Nations, calling for help against Italy’s aggressive advances and new, fatal technologies towards his country. He stressed that if left unattended, these actions could threaten the entire league and every small independent nation. He was refused the help, and in 1939, World War II broke out. With the help of other countries and an Ethiopian rebellion, the Emperor and Ethiopian emperor gained freedom again. This seemed like the fight between David and Goliath, with the good underdog coming up against the evil. Rastafari used this event and biblical sources to justify Haile Selassie as the righteous. Following the verse Revelations 17:14, “They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of Lords and King of Kings—and with him will be his called, chosen, and faithful followers, the war seems to be Armageddon, and Haile Selassie comes with the solution and order to found a New Jerusalem, which for Rastafari is the restoration of Eden/Africa on earth.
Haile Selassie speaks for the United Nations in October 1963, and his speech reflects on how Ethiopia was refused help and spoke out for his dreams of no war and no racism. His speech was used in many different songs, one of the most famous being “War” by Bob Marley, a Rastafarian icon.
According to a compilation of myths, Leonard Howell is said to be the first Rasta. He sold postcards with a picture of Haile Selassie on it. The idea he preached was that blacks would soon be able to return to their land of freedom in Africa, but in the meantime, they should develop self-sufficiency, because they were royal children of Africa who could not live in the UK governed Jamaica the same way for longer. Because a black king had been crowned, the time for them was coming. Rastafarianism was truly to create an identity for the poverty-stricken and mistreated blacks in Jamaica.
In conclusion, Rastafari generally believed in the mystical concept of divinity in man, and if man can be divine, then Haile Selassie must be divine.