The Inspiring Life of Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia

Discover the extraordinary journey of Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, a visionary leader whose life story epitomizes resilience, inspiration, and determination.

Table of Contents

Who is haile selassie i of Ethiopia

Haile Selassie i of Ethiopia, the latter of the Solomonic Dynasty, ruled Ethiopia with grandeur and far-reaching influence, earning him the moniker, ‘The Lion of Judah’. Known for his strategic maneuvers in politics and devout Orthodox Christian faith, he led Ethiopia through a transformative era marked with the struggle of decolonization and political reformation. His reign was not without controversies, but the indelible legacy he left behind continues to spark discourse till this day. This narrative will dissect the life, reign, and aftereffects of Selassie’s rule, illuminating the resounding influence of this 20th-century Ethiopian icon. 

Queen Elizabeth II and President Algeria with Haile Selassie.

History of Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia?

The Ascend of Emperor Haile Selassie to the Ethiopian Throne

Haile Selassie, originally known as Ras Tafari Makonnen, ascended to the Ethiopian throne in a period marked by significant socio-political changes. His rise began as Ras Tafari, a regent and heir apparent under Empress Zewditu. He was known for his diplomatic skills and modernizing visions. His coronation as Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1930 marked a new era for Ethiopia, heralding a period of modernization, international diplomacy, and the struggle against Italian invasion. As Emperor, he became a symbol of Ethiopian sovereignty and independence, leading the nation through turbulent times with a combination of traditional authority and progressive reform.

The Relationship Between Haile Selassie and Tafari Makonnen

Haile Selassie I and Tafari Makonnen are indeed one and the same person. Tafari Makonnen was his name before his coronation as Emperor. The transition from Tafari Makonnen to Haile Selassie represents his journey from a regional ruler and influential political figure to the revered Emperor of Ethiopia. This transformation was marked by significant political, social, and economic reforms aimed at modernizing Ethiopia and reinforcing its position on the global stage.

Understanding the Name Haile Selassie and its Significance

The name ‘Haile Selassie’ holds great significance. Translated as “Power of the Trinity,” this name, adopted upon his coronation, reflects his deep religious conviction and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s influence. It symbolizes his perceived divine kingship and the fulfillment of a prophetic lineage, tracing back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. This name became synonymous with Ethiopian independence and resilience, resonating deeply not just within Ethiopia but also among the Rastafari movement in Jamaica, where he was revered as a messianic figure.

Haile Selassie i of Ethiopia: From Ras Tafari to Ethiopia's Esteemed Emperor

The transformation from Ras Tafari, a title meaning “head” or “chief,” to Haile Selassie, was emblematic of his evolution as a leader. His journey from the young and progressive regent to the Emperor of Ethiopia was marked by his commitment to modernization, internationalism, and maintaining Ethiopian independence against colonial forces. As Ras Tafari, he laid the foundations for change, which he furthered as Haile Selassie, navigating Ethiopia through the complexities of the early 20th century, including resisting Italian aggression and advocating for African unity and independence.

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Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at the royal wedding of the Queen's nephew, the Duke of Edinburgh, to the Princess of Wales, June 12, 1981, with Haile Selassie.

What were the major milestones of Haile Selassie's reign?

Haile Selassie: His Triumph and Tragedy as the Emperor

Haile Selassie i of Ethiopia’s reign as Emperor  was marked by both significant achievements and notable challenges. His efforts to modernize Ethiopia, including educational and infrastructural reforms, were monumental. He worked tirelessly to unite the various ethnicities and languages within Ethiopia under a centralized government. However, his reign was also marred by tragedy, notably the Italian invasion in 1935 and subsequent exile to England. Despite these challenges, Selassie’s resilience and diplomatic skill enabled him to regain his throne in 1941, continuing to lead Ethiopia until his overthrow in 1974.

The Role Selassie played in the League of Nations

Haile Selassie’s involvement with the League of Nations was a critical aspect of his international policy. In 1936, following the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, Selassie appealed to the League for assistance, delivering a powerful speech that highlighted the dangers of appeasement and the need for collective security. Although his pleas were initially ignored, his eloquence and dignity on the international stage won him widespread admiration and support. His efforts contributed significantly to Ethiopia becoming a charter member of the United Nations and helped elevate Ethiopia’s international standing.

The 1930 Coronation: When Selassie Became the King of Kings

The coronation of Haile Selassie in 1930 was a defining moment in Ethiopian history. It was an event of grandeur and symbolism, proclaiming him as “King of Kings, Elect of God.” This coronation not only solidified his position in Ethiopia but also captured the attention of the world, including the Rastafarians in Jamaica, who saw in him a divine figure. His coronation signified a new era of hope and rejuvenation for Ethiopia, marking the beginning of his ambitious plans for modernizing the nation.

Haile Selassie's Response when Italy Invaded Ethiopia

One of the most defining moments of Haile Selassie’s reign was his response to the Italian invasion in 1935. Demonstrating remarkable leadership, Selassie mobilized the Ethiopian army and sought international support, asserting Ethiopia’s sovereignty. His impassioned plea to the League of Nations in 1936, condemning the use of chemical weapons by Italian forces and calling for collective action against aggression, remains a poignant moment in history. Though his appeals for intervention were largely unheeded, leading to his exile in 1936, Selassie’s eloquence and dignity on the global stage earned him international admiration and set a precedent for anti-colonial resistance.

Final Years and Exile of Selassie

The final years of Haile Selassie i of Ethiopia were marked by both triumph and turmoil. After returning from exile in 1941, he undertook significant modernization efforts in Ethiopia, including constitutional reforms and membership in the United Nations. However, his later years were overshadowed by internal dissent, economic challenges, and famine. The widespread discontent eventually led to his dethronement in a coup by the Derg military junta in 1974. Selassie’s subsequent house arrest and mysterious death in 1975 marked the end of an era. Despite these tumultuous final years, his legacy as a symbol of Ethiopian independence and a figurehead for the Rastafari movement endures.

Why is Haile Selassie i of Ethiopia regarded as the 'King of Kings' by Rastafarians?

The Belief of Rastafarians in Selassie as the Elect of God

Rastafarians regard Haile Selassie as the ‘Elect of God,’ a belief deeply rooted in their interpretation of Biblical prophecy and African history. They view Selassie’s lineage, tracing back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, as fulfilling Biblical prophecies about a divine king. His coronation title, “King of Kings, Lord of Lords,” resonates with Rastafarian beliefs, affirming his divine status and the notion that he is a chosen one, destined to lead and uplift the African diaspora.

Haile Selassie's Visit to Jamaica: A Historic Day for Rastafarians

Haile Selassie’s visit to Jamaica on April 21, 1966, is a day etched in Rastafarian history as a moment of profound spiritual significance. Thousands of Rastafarians gathered to welcome him, seeing his visit as a fulfillment of prophecy and a validation of their beliefs. This historic event, known as Grounation Day, symbolized hope and inspiration for the Rastafarian community, further cementing Selassie’s revered status among Rastafarians.

Understanding the Relationship Between Selassie and King Solomon

The Rastafarian belief in Haile Selassie’s divine status is intertwined with the legend of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Rastafarians believe that Selassie, as a descendant of King Solomon, inherits a royal and spiritual lineage that connects him to the Biblical prophecies and the divine plan. This lineage is seen as evidence of Selassie’s rightful place as a global African leader and a spiritual guide for the Rastafarian movement.


As we conclude our exploration of Haile Selassie I’s reign, we stand in awe of the complex tapestry that was his life and leadership. Known as the Lion of Judah, haile selassie i of ethiopia was more than a monarch; he was a symbol of resilience and aspiration for Ethiopia and beyond. His efforts to modernize Ethiopia, his role in the founding of the Organization of African Unity, and his unwavering stand against colonialism paint the picture of a leader dedicated to progress and unity. Yet, his reign was not without controversy, marked by internal struggles and global challenges. Despite this, Selassie’s impact extends far beyond his time on the throne, resonating in the hearts of Rastafarians who revere him as a divine figure, and remembered globally for his impassioned plea to the League of Nations. The Lion of Judah’s reign may have ended, but his legacy as a symbol of Ethiopian sovereignty and African dignity continues to echo through history, reminding us of the enduring power of leadership that is rooted in a deep love for one’s nation and a vision for its future.

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Most frequent questions and answers

Born as Tafari Makonnen, Haile Selassie came to power after the death of his cousin, Emperor Menelik II. He initially served as regent from 1916 to 1928, and then ascended to the throne as “Emperor of Ethiopia” in 1930.

Yes, the Imperial House of Ethiopia, which he was a part of, traced its lineage back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. This belief is rooted in the national mythology of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and is an important aspect of the nation’s identity even today.

Haile Selassie contributed to the modernization of Ethiopia, including reforms in education, law, and infrastructure. He also made Ethiopia a charter member of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (now African Union). However, his reign also occurred during a period of political turbulence and socioeconomic inequality. His influence on the history of Ethiopia is vast and multi-faceted.

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