Rastafarians are members of a Jamaican messianic movement dating back to the 1930s; in 1974 they were estimated to number 20,000 in Jamaica. According to Rastafarian belief the only true God is the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie (originally known as Ras Tafari), and Ethiopia is the true Zion. Rastafarians claim that white Christian preachers and missionaries have perverted the Scriptures to conceal the fact that Adam and Jesus were black. Their rituals include the use of marijuana and the chanting of revivalist hymns. Reggae music is the popular music of the movement. The Rastafarians, who stress black separatism, have exercised some political influence in Jamaica.
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Haile Selassie was emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. A cousin of Emperor Menelik II, he was born Tafari Makonnen on July 23, 1892. Menelik was succeeded in 1913 by his grandson Lij Yasu, a converted Muslim. When Lij Yasu attempted to change the official religion of Ethiopia from Coptic Christianity to Islam, Tafari Makonnen drove him from the throne and installed (1916) his aunt as Empress Zauditu. Assuming the title Ras Tafari, he named himself regent and heir to the throne. He became de facto ruler of the country and was crowned king in 1928. Two years later, after the mysterious death of the empress, he became emperor as Haile Selassie I.
Haile Selassie ruled as an absolute monarch, centralizing Ethiopia and instituting a number of reforms, including the abolition of slavery. In 1935, after the Italian Fascist troops of Benito Mussolini had invaded Ethiopia, Haile Selassie gained the admiration and sympathy of the world with his impassioned plea for aid from the League of Nations. The league was powerless to act, however, and Mussolini consolidated his gains and officially annexed Ethiopia to Italy. Haile Selassie was forced into exile. Ethiopia was liberated early in World War II, and Haile Selassie regained his throne in 1941.
After the war he resumed his long-range plans to modernize Ethiopia. He continued his autocratic rule, however, and opposition to him grew. Beginning in 1960 a series of coups d'etat were attempted, and in reaction his rule became increasingly despotic. Finally, in 1974 the army succeeded in seizing control. Haile Selassie was stripped of his powers, and later that year he was removed from the throne and placed under house arrest. He died in Addis Ababa on Aug. 27, 1975.
Clapham, Christopher S., Haile Selassie's Government (1969); Haile Selassie I, The Autobiography of Emperor Haile Selassie I, trans. by E. Ullendorff (1976); Kapuscinski, Ryszard, The Emperor, trans. by W. R. Brand and K. Mroczkowska-Brand (1983); Legum, Colin, Ethiopia: The Fall of Haile Selassie's Empire (1975); Marcus, Harold G., Haile Selassie: The Formative Years (1986); Mosley, Leonard, Haile Selassie: The Conquering Lion (1964); Shwab, Peter, ed., Ethiopia and Haile Selassie (1972) and Haile Selassie I (1979).
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