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21 April 2008

On this day in history: Emperor Haile Selassie visits Jamaica, 1966

Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, had been the central figure in the Rastafarian faith since the foundation of the movement in the early 1930s. The indigent population in Jamaica saw him as God incarnate, being the only independent black monarch in Africa and, by tradition, a descendent of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. To Rastafarians he is still a Messiah figure fulfilling certain biblical prophesies: he is the 'King of Kings' and the 'Conquering Lion of Judah'.

It is no surprise that when the Emperor visited Jamaica on 21st April 1966 he was received by a rapturous crowd of thousands of Rastafarians. Taken aback by the fervour of their welcome, Haile Selassie returned to the plane until he was given assurances that he would be protected from the throng. The visit continued with the Emperor meeting the ageing Prime Minister, Sir Alexander Bustamante, and receiving an honourary degree at the University of the West Indies.

April 21st has become a sacred date to Rastafarians, celebrated every year as 'Groundation Day' when they hold a Nyahbinghi meeting, during which they celebrate His Imperial Majesty with music, chanting and prayer.

To find out more about the Emperor's visit and Rastafarianism in general, visit the Rastafari section of the Jamaicans.com web-site.

3 comments:

DineometerDeb said...

That's interesting. I had no idea Haile Selassie was associated with Rastafarians.

billyboxergirl said...

good history information

Stepterix said...

dinometerdeb

Before he was crowned, Haile Selassie's name was Tafari Makonnen, and he had the title Ras (roughly equivalent of 'Duke'). Thus he was Ras Tafari Makonnen, which is the source of the word Rastafari.


billyboxergirl

Thanks for the feedback

K