Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Rastafari: Roots and Ideology

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Rastafari: Roots and Ideology

Article excerpt

Rastafari: Roots and Ideology by Harry Chevannes Syracuse University Press. 1994. 298 pp. $34.95

Interviews with thirty converts from the 1930s and 1940s are a unique component of Barry Chevannes's book - a sweeping look into the origins and practices of Rastafarianism. From the direct accounts of these early members, the author reconstructs pivotal episodes in Rastafarian history to offer a rare look into a subgroup of Jamaican society whose beliefs took root in the social unrest of the I930s. Here Chevannes traces Rastafarianism back to the prophet Marcus (Mosiah) Garvey, the pan-African advocate of black nationalism and an African homeland for African-Americans.

Before Garvey, few Jamaicans, who had been brought to the island as slaves and who in the course of time had subsequently come to outnumber the formerly wholly white, British population of Jamaica, held positive attitudes about Africa. The rise of black nationalism, however, provided the movement with its impetus to organize a system of beliefs. A great speaker, Garvey's passionate rhetoric in support of black separatism brought him millions of adherents in the US and elsewhere, and in 1922 he even met with KKK leaders in the US, recognizing that they shared similar aims.

As a spiritual philosophy, Rastafarianism is linked to societies of runaway slaves, or maroons, and derives from both the African Myal religion and the Revivalist Zion churches. …

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