Rastafarianism is a religious movement born out of the black slums of Jamaica which harnessed the teachings of the Jamaican born black nationalist, Marcus Garvey and conditionally uses selective Old Testament Christian writings to support its teachings and practices. Born in 1887, Garvey’s influence on the poor black slave descendants in Jamaica came to its peak in the 1920’s where his message of encouragement and calling on black people to take pride in themselves won some fanatical supporters. Although historically Marcus Garvey was a political leader interested in making the black race economically equal with the white, in oral tradition he has become a divinely anointed prophet.
With the crowning of Ras Tafari Makonnen on November 2nd 1930 in Ethiopia, many believed Garvey’s prediction of a black king crowned in Africa who would be a redeemer and liberator of the dispossessed black race had come to fruition. Makonnen claimed for himself the titles of “Emperor Haile Selassie I, Conquering lion of the tribe of Judah, Elect of God and King of the kings of Ethiopia.” Ethiopia holds great significance to Rastafaris who believe in a coming judgement day when the righteous will be called home to Mount Zion (identified with Africa) to live forever in peace and harmony. Marcus Garvey, although no admirer of Haile Selassie, as he observed that slavery still existed in Ethiopia, continued to be revered by the fanatical Rastafarians despite being a Roman Catholic by birth who never spoke out explicitly to support the growing movement.