Rastafarianism is a religious and social movement that appeared in Jamaica in 1930 and rose to prominence throughout the XX century. Rastafarianism has roots in Christianity and Ethiopianism and calls for righteous living and exodus of African people from the West, or Babylon, to Africa, which is regarded as Zion, the promised land.


The XX century is commonly regarded as the era of racism and white supremacy in the Western nations, especially the United States. Jamaica was similarly an English colony at the beginning of the century and saw similar trends. As a reaction to that, the local black population embraced Ethiopianism and Pan-Africanism, which was aimed at strengthening the bonds of the African diaspora.

The social movements intertwined with Christianity to create the prophecy of a black king who shall be crowned and become the Redeemer. In 1930, Ras Tafari Makonnen became Emperor Haile Selassie I of Egypt, thus fulfilling the prophecy. Some Jamaicans recognized his rule as the embodiment of God. Drawing from the Old Testament, they started to advocate for a mass exodus from Babylon, which was the English-controlled colony, to Zion, the promised land, which was Africa.

Aside from that, Rastafarian religion recognizes Jah, the Judeo-Christian God, Jahve. Thus, Rastafarianism was born as a mix of Pan-African social movements and Christian lore. Naturally, the English government saw the religious movement as subversive and began cracking down on its prominent preachers.

The Rastafarians created an autonomous commune, where they grew marijuana, which they regarded as a sacred plant, for use in sacraments and economic stability. However, marijuana was illegal, which attracted the attention of law enforcement. In 1954 the police arrested most of the members and destroyed the crops, wiping the community out.

Surviving Rastafarians reacted to the persecution by strengthening their Pan-African beliefs and, at times, becoming militant black supremacists. Emperor Selassie embraced the movement, donated land, and publicly supported the cause. By the second half of the century, Rastafarianism spread across the world, promoting black brotherhood, pride, and Christian values through its distinctive culture, hair styles, recognizable flag colors, and music.