African History

Facts You May Not Have Known About Haile Selassie I

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Ras Tafari Makonnen lived from July 23, 1892, to Aug. 27, 1975. The Rastafari movement was born when politician Marcus Garvey proclaimed: “Look to Africa for the crowning of a Black king.” a couple of 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’s still considered by Rastafarians to be the 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 within the Kebra Nagast (Book of Kings) that has King Solomon and, therefore, 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 NY City in October 1963.


Selassie proved to be a model student. He was intelligent, hardworking, had a superb memory, and paid attention to the littlest detail. Recognizing his abilities, his father proclaimed him dejazmach (commander) of an area 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 led troops within the field.


In 1923, he led Ethiopia into the League of countries. The subsequent year, he traveled to Europe, becoming the primary Ethiopian ruler to travel abroad.


Two commemorative stamps are issued for the emperor. These include a mark for his regime before the Italian 0ccupation within the period of 1930-1936 and another one after the occupation from 1942-1974.


Haile Selassie worked on various economic and social reforms for the progress of his people. However, his most vital work was creating a constitution in 1931 and helping to realize a Re-Africanization of Ethiopia.


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