Haile Selassie (Power of Trinity) (July 23, 1892 - August 27, 1975) was the last Emperor (1930 - 1936; 1941 - 1974) of Ethiopia.
Haile Selassie was born in the town-village of Ejersa Goro, Ethiopia, as Tafari Makonnen to father Ras Makonnen, the governor of Harar and to mother Wezero (lady) Yeshimebet Ali. He didn't remember his mother, who died on March 14, 1894. He came about his Imperial blood through his paternal grandmother, Tenagnework Sahle Selassie, who was an aunt of Emperor Menelik II and a claimed direct descendant of Makeda, Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of ancient Israel.
In September 1916, an assembly of nobles with the agreement of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church deposed Emperor Lij Iyasu (Iyasu V), the grandson and heir of Emperor Menelik II, for suspected conversion to Islam. In his place they crowned Menelik's daughter Zauditu as Empress of Ethiopia and her cousin Ras (Duke) Tafari Makonnen as Crown Prince and Regent. As Ras Tafari (Amharic Fearsome), he ruled Ethiopia as regent and crown prince (1916 - 1928) for his cousin the empress Zauditu, and as king (negus) (1928 - 1930), assuming the title of Emperor upon Zauditu's death (April 2, 1930). He was crowned emperor November 2, 1930, taking the full title His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God, King of Kings of Ethiopia.
In 1911 he married Wayzaro Menen Asfaw, daughter of the Jantirar Asfaw of Ambassel and maternal granddaughter of King Mikael of Wolo. She was the niece of the deposed Lij Iyasu. Emperor Haile Selassie and Empress Menen had six children, Princess Tenagnework, Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen, Princess Tsehai, Princess Zenebework, Prince Makonnen Duke of Harar, and Prince Sahle Selassie. Emperor Haile Selassie, by a previous marriage, had a daughter, Princess Romanework.
Emperor Haile Selassie developed the policy of careful modernisation initiated by the emperor Menelik II, securing Ethiopia's admission to the League of Nations in 1923 and abolishing slavery in the Empire that same year. He introduced Ethiopia's first written constitution in 1931. It provided for a bi-cameral legislature, which although completely filled by appointment, was the first time that non-noble subjects had an active role in setting official government policy. The League's failure to stop the Second Italo-Ethiopian War—Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935—led to five years in exile, during which he was based at Bath in England, but spent some time elsewhere, for example in Great Malvern.
Returning in 1941 after Italy's defeat in Ethiopia by British and Ethiopian patriot forces, he introduced a revised constitution in (November 1955) under which he retained effective power while extending political participation by allowing the lower house of parliament become an elected body. In 1963 he presided over the establishment of the Organization of African Unity and convinced the new organization to set up its headquarters in Addis Ababa.
Following an abortive coup attempt (December 1960) he pursued more conservative policies, aligning Ethiopia with the West in contrast to the more radical leftist African governments that were more common in that era. His policies contributed to his deposition on September 12, 1974 following a military coup. The media at the time reported that the Emperor died in prison on August 27, 1975, following complications from a prostate operation. His doctors denied that any complications had occurred and rejected the government version of his death. It is widely believed by historians that he was suffocated in his sleep, and his remains buried beneath the president's personal office. (On November 5th, 2000, the late Emperor was given an Imperial funeral by the Ethiopian Orthodox church, but the new post-communist Ethiopian government refused to give it the status of a state funeral.)
Amongst followers of Rastafarianism, a religion which developed in the 1930s in Jamaica under the influence of Marcus Mosiah Garvey's "Back to Africa" movement, Haile Selassie is regarded as a Black messiah who will lead the peoples of Africa and the African diaspora to freedom. Most Rastafarians believe that Haile Selassie is still alive, and that his widely reported death was part of a conspiracy to discredit their religion.
The state visit of Selassie to Jamaica, during which the Emperor was greeted by massive screaming crowds, was reportedly quite unsettling for the monarch. After the visit, the Emperor is said to have told Ethiopian Orthodox Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq : "There is a problem in Jamaica.... Please, help these people. They are misunderstanding, they do not understand our culture.... They need a church to be established and you are chosen to go." He remained a devout member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church his entire life.
The Emperor's seat as a Knight of the Garter in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle had the unusual feature of a double-sided banner, one side representing the Emperor of Ethiopia, and the other for the Lion of Judah. He had originally asked for two seats.
- "Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abanded. That until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation. Until the colour of a man skin is no more significance than the colour of his eyes. That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all, without regard to race. Until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained." – Haile Selassie, United Nations.
- Speech to the League of Nations, June 1936 http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/selassie.htm (full text)
Speech to the UN on October 4, 1963 http://www.bobmarley.com/life/rastafari/war_speech.html from which Bob Marley made his famous song 'War'.
Last updated: 02-19-2005 11:20:57
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01