Haile Selassie I: Emperor of Ethiopia
Ras Tafari Makonnen lived from July 23, 1892, to Aug. 27, 1975. The Rastafari movement was born when political leader Marcus Garvey proclaimed: “Look to Africa for the crowning of a Black king.” A few years later, in 1930, Makonnen was crowned emperor of Ethiopia and took the name Haile Selassie I. Abroad, he was worshiped as a divine figure. In Jamaica, he is still considered by Rastafarians to be the spiritual leader of Black people worldwide.
His name, Haile Selassie, translates into “Power of the Trinity.” His legitimacy as a ruler passes through a line of Ethiopian royalty chronicled in the Kebra Nagast (Book of Kings) that includes King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
The lyrics of Bob Marley’s song War are from the English translation of a speech Selassie delivered to the United Nations in New York City in October 1963.
Selassie proved to be a model student. He was intelligent, hardworking, had an excellent memory and paid attention to the smallest detail. Recognizing his abilities, his father proclaimed him dejazmach (commander) of a local militia in 1905 at the age of 13. At 14, he had been governor of Gara Maleta, a province of Harar, and by 20, he was dejazmach of Sidamo province.
He was voted Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1936.
He took great pride in the suppression of slavery. When Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, he personally led troops in the field.