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Reputation is an overall estimation of an individual's character, values, and persona held by others who know him or her. Some people have a bad reputation, others have an admirable reputation while few have a reputation that is mind-blowing. Throughout history, few characters have had a bizarre reputation in their time, some even held the reputation of a god. One such individual is Haile Selassie I.
Haile Selassie, I was the Ethiopian emperor between 1930 up to his death in 1975. He was a leader whose influence had by far surpassed the boundaries of his own country. He was a key figure and played a critical role in transforming Ethiopia into an independent and modern civilization. Haile Selassie's I actual name was Tafari Makomen, with his full names being "'His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Elect of God," a name that was used mostly by the Rastafarians. Rastafarians was a religion that was derived from their leader Haile Selassie's biological name, the Ras Tafari (Makonnen). Haile Selassie also means "power of the Trinity".
He was born in the year 1892 and was a son of Ras Makonnen. Haile Selassie is a direct offspring of the 'Queen of Sheba' and 'King Solomon' who both ruled from the 10th century B.C.E. Derwing, Rossiter & Munro (2002) suggest the prophecy in the bible was that a savior from the lineage of David shall come and He shall deliver God's people. Since Haile Selassie was from the lineage of David, the claim by his followers to be God's chosen or reincarnation of Christ was more than convincing. Also, Ethiopia was the only country in Africa that was never colonized and that went a long way in strengthening the notion that he was a god.
Ethiopia is more than 8,000 miles from Jamaica, but a connection between the two countries was forged by Rastafari. They believed that Ras Tafari's coronation was fulfilling a prophecy. The name Rastafari was coined from Haile Selassie real name Ras Tafari. He was their savior and deliverer, the messiah that is spoken of in the Book of Revelation. He had many titles like the Lion of Judah, His Imperial Majesty (HIM) and others.
"Look to Africa when a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is near," according to Thomas (2004) was the divination that started it all. The prophecy was foretold by Marcus Garvey. He was an activist born and raised in Jamaica. He campaigned for equality and social justice for all in Jamaica which was important slavery center. Over 2 million slaves had been shipped to Jamaica. The prophecy therefore that a savior would come and save them from their slavery and poverty and return them back to their original birthplace really related to them. It gave them hope of being free from oppression by Babylon. Garvey was viewed by the Rastafari and Jamaicans at large as John the Baptist for the black race and more specifically the Rastafarians.
After slavery was eradicated in the year 1833 and Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln released the slaves, life did not in any way change for the better for the ex-slaves, neither did it for their children and generations after that. Everywhere the blacks in Jamaica saw and felt oppression from Babylon, mostly executed by the police, but their hope was in Haile Selassie and their repatriation back to Africa which they believe is their promised land. According to the prophecy by Garvey, the black king i.e. Haile Selassie was the Messiah foretold in the bible and who would deliver the world.
As a vibrant and young emperor, Haile Selassie became a symbol of hope for his country by trying to put Ethiopia on the global map. During his leadership, he was able to unify the country through the introduction of a new constitution. In the year 1923, Haile Selassie led his country into the League of Nations. The Empress at the leadership tenure of Haile Selassie showed more interest in religion than politics which was contrasting to Selassie's interests in turning Ethiopia into a modern nation. In 1926, Selassie took control of the country's army, and this gave him the power to assume the position of a king. In 1928, Selassie proclaimed himself as king and later acquired the title of Kings of Kings after Zauditu died in 1930. According to Derwing, Rossiter & Munro (2002), he, later on, called himself Haile Selassie meaning "Might of the Trinity."
For forty years that Selassie was in power over the government and the country, he was able to secure his position by founding a new constitution that centralized his authority. However, in the year 1935, his power was compromised when Ethiopia was invaded by Italy. Though he got support from some feudal lords, there are others that opposed him and supported the invaders. Selassie's was not to give up easily, and thus he sent an army to Tigray where he claimed victory in Tembien in the year 1936 (Thomas, 2004). However, this victory did not last for long as the Italians used the mustard gas to overcome Selassie's troops. The final stand for the Ethiopian army came when they retreated to Maychew, and at this point, Ethiopia lost its independence to Italy. This came with consequences in that Selassie was exiled. Even with Selassie in Exile, the Ethiopians waged a guerrilla war to fight the invaders. In exile, Selassie appealed for aid to the League of Nations, but he was unsuccessful. He later sought help from the British.
Selassie received some reprieve when finally the British freed Ethiopians from Italian rule. He later claimed back his throne, even though his administration had been destroyed. During his tenure, Selassie dedicated his leadership to improving the country's defense and reconstituting his administration. He also sent young Ethiopians to other countries to learn what they could from those cultures. Backed by Western powers, Selassie improved infrastructure and managed to build schools, hospitals, bridges, and factories.
His good deeds gave him the reputation of a reformer. However, the changing times tainted his reputation. In the 1970s the Ethiopian's economy deteriorated which led to the increase in the unemployment rates. Selassie's government was also unable to respond to the needs of the citizens and this undermined his rule. He also his army as many left because of low pay, and this weakened his defense. As a result, Selassie was ousted in a power coup that saw him under house arrest. Cultures and different times shaped Selassie's reputation. Selassie died in 1975 (Thomas, 2004).
Derwing, T. M., Rossiter, M.J., & Munro, M. J. (2002). Journal of Kings of Kings.Thomas, H. K. (2004). Haile Selassie, I biography. A&E Television Networks
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