Haile Selassie

Haile Selassie (hī´lē səlăs´ē, –lä´sē), [Amharic,=power of the Trinity], 1892–1975, emperor of Ethiopia (1930–74). He was born Tafari Makonnen, the son of a noted general and the grandnephew of Emperor Menelik II. A brilliant student, he became a favorite of Menelik, who made him a provincial governor at 14. As a Coptic Christian, Tafari opposed Menelik's grandson and successor, Lij Yasu, who became a Muslim convert, and in 1916 compelled his deposition and established Menelik's daughter Zauditu as empress with himself as regent. In 1928, Tafari was crowned king of Ethiopia, and in 1930, after the empress's mysterious death, he became emperor as Haile Selassie, claiming to be a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. He attempted internal reforms and took great pride in the suppression of slavery. When Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, he personally led defending troops in the field, but in 1936 he was forced to flee to British protection. Twice (1936, 1938) he vainly appealed to the League of Nations for effective action against Italy. In 1940, after Italy entered World War II, he returned to Africa with British aid, and in 1941 he reentered Ethiopia and regained his throne. In the postwar period he instituted social and political reforms, such as establishing (1955) a national assembly. In the 1960s and 70s he worked for pan-African aims, particularly through the Organization of African Unity. In 1960 he crushed a revolt by a group of young intellectuals and army officers demanding an end to oppression and poverty. In 1974, however, the army was successful in seizing control. Haile Selassie was progressively stripped of his powers and finally, on Sept. 12, 1974, deposed. He was murdered in prison at the orders of the coup leaders in 1975.

See P. Schwab, ed., Ethiopia and Haile Selassie (1972); E. Ullendorf, ed. and tr., The Autobiography of Haile Selassie I (1976); H. G. Marcus, Haile Selassie I: The Formative Years (1987).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Haile Selassie: Selected full-text books and articles

The Rastafarians By Leonard E. Barrett Beacon Press, 1997
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Ethiopianism in Jamaica" and Chap. 7 "After Selassie: The Rastafarians since 1975"
Rastafari: Roots and Ideology By Barry Chevannes Syracuse University Press, 1994
Librarian's tip: Chap. 8 "Word, Sound, and Power"
Spear and Scepter: Army, Police, and Politics in Tropical Africa By Ernest W. Lefever Brookings Institution, 1970
Librarian's tip: Chap. Four "Ethiopia"
The Political Economy of Ethiopia By Marina Ottaway Praeger, 1990
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Continuity and Change in Ethiopian Politics"
Gatherings in Diaspora: Religious Communities and the New Immigration By R. Stephen Warner; Judith G. Wittner Temple University Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "The House that Rasta Built: Church-Building and Fundamentalism among New York Rastafarians"
Great Powers and Little Wars: The Limits of Power By A. Hamish Ion; E. J. Errington Praeger Publishers, 1993
Librarian's tip: Chap. 8 "The Italian-Ethiopian War, October 1935-November 1941: Causes, Conduct, and Consequences"
Political Africa: A Who's Who of Personalities and Parties By Ronald Segal; Catherine Hoskyns; Rosalynde Ainslie Frederick A. Praeger, 1961
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.