The passage of time gives rise to new ideas and movements that stem from the social, political, and economic conditions in which a people live. History has seen the formation, disintegration, and evolution of innumerable religious movements, oftentimes the response of a people to the changes around them in an attempt to fulfill their spiritual needs. One such movement is the Rastafari movement which began in Jamaica in the 1930s. In order to properly understand Rastafarianism you must examine its roots and the time period in which it arose. Economic oppression, charismatic leaders, and a need for cultural identity all led to the development and growth of this religion.
It was the combination of events in Jamaica and the African country of Ethiopia that sparked the first flames of the movement. This movement grew out of the darkest depression in which the descendants of African slaves in Jamaica have ever lived. Throughout this time Jamaica was witnessing a shift from a small agricultural system to an industrial system. This led to social and cultural unrest which corresponded with the emergence of the Black Nationalist movement and the teachings of Marcus Garvey who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the 1920s (Kebede & Knottnerus, 499).
Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie: the roots of Rastafarianism .
Marcus Garvey was a supporter of the "back to Africa" consciousness, and of awakening black pride while denouncing British rule that made blacks feel ashamed of who they were. Marcus Garvey's famous words were, "Look to Africa where a king would be crowned, for the day of deliverance is near." Then on November 2, 1930 Ras Tafari was crowned emperor of Ethiopia. Crowned Haile Selassie I, an Amharic name meaning the power of the Holy Trinity, his other titles included Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and Conquering Lion of the Tribes of Judah. The coronation of Haile Selassie I seemed to show that the prophecy was fulfilled.