Timeline of Rastafari in Britain
Co-curated with elders of Rastafari for the Rastafari in Motion exhibition in June 2016
1887 – Marcus Mosiah Garvey is born in Saint Ann parish, Jamaica.
1892 – July 23rd, Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael is born in Ejersa Goro, eastern Ethiopia, to mother Yeshimebet Ali and father Ras Makonnen Wolde Mikael. His baptismal name is Haile Selassie, meaning, “power of the Trinity”.
1896 – Battle of Adwa. Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia defeats an Italian army intent on colonizing Ethiopia.
1902 – Ras Makonnen, father of Tafari Makonnen, visits London to attend the coronation of King Edward VII.
1911 – Marriage of Tafari Makonnen and Menen Asfaw.
1914 - Marcus and Amy Ashwood Garvey found the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica. The UNIA preaches “Africa for Africans, at home and abroad”.
1916 – 27th September, Tafari Makonnen installed as Prince Regent of Ethiopia and takes on the title “Ras”.
1919 – July, first Ethiopian delegation to the United States. The four members of the “Abyssinian Mission” build links with the African-American population.
1923 - Ras Tafari negotiates Ethiopia’s entry into the League of Nations.
1924 – As part of a diplomatic mission to Europe Ras Tafari makes His first visit to the United Kingdom.
1928 – Ras Tafari is given the throne of Shoa by Empress Zewditu, elevating Him to the title of Negus (King).
1930 – 2nd April, Empress Zewditu dies.
1930 – 2nd November, the Coronation of Ras Tafari as Emperor. His official title (translated into English) becomes “The Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Elect of God”. Breaking with convention, the Emperor ensures that his consort Menen Asfaw is crowned Empress of Ethiopia on the same day.
Early 1930s - Leonard Howell, Joseph Hibbert, Robert Hinds and Archibald Dunkley, all former UNIA members, start to preach the Divinity of Emperor Haile Selassie I in colonial Jamaica. Howell is charged with sedition.
1935 - Leonard Howell’s book “The Promised Key” is in circulation, the first book to argue for the divine nature of Emperor Haile Selassie I (whom Howell presents as “King Ras Tafari”).
1935 – 3rd October, Mussolini’s Italian army invades Ethiopia. This act of fascist aggression sparks protests, strikes and public outrage across the Caribbean.
1936 – 5th May, on advice of the Crown Council, Emperor Haile Selassie I, the royal family and retinues leave Ethiopia for the United Kingdom in order to take the Ethiopian cause to the League of Nations.
1936 – 9th May, Sylvia Pankhurst, famous English suffragette, publishes the first issue of “New Times and Ethiopia News”, a pro-Ethiopia newspaper.
1936 – 3rd June, Emperor Haile Selassie I, family and retinue arrive at Waterloo Station, London to great applause and enthusiasm.
1936 – 30th June, Emperor Haile Selassie I addresses the League of Nations in Geneva. His speech calls for “international morality” to prevail and “collective security” to be mobilized against fascist Italian aggression.
1936 – September, Emperor Haile Selassie I, family and retinue take residence of Fairfield House, a Victorian villa in the ancient Roman city of Bath.
1937 – 25th August, following a meeting the previous year with Emperor Haile Selassie I at Fairfield House, a group of African-Americans incorporate the Ethiopian World Federation (EWF), in New York City, in order to centralise and co-ordinate the support given by Africans in the Diaspora to Ethiopia.
1940 – Leonard Howell establishes Pinnacle, the first autonomous Rastafari community, in Saint Catherine parish, Jamaica. Pinnacle regularly comes under pressure and attack by colonial forces.
1940 – June, with the Italians declaring war against the Allies, Haile Selassie I leaves the UK for Sudan to enter Ethiopia at the head of the 'Gideon Force', a select coalition of British and African forces.
1941 – 5th May, with the Italians defeated by Ethiopian and Commonwealth troops, Emperor Haile Selassie I triumphantly re-enters Addis Ababa five years to the day after his exit.
1940s - Youth Black Faith, a predecessor of the Nyahbinghi Rastafari mansion, is established in Jamaica.
1948 – Emperor Haile Selassie I promulgates the Shashamene-Malkoda land grant for settlement by Africans in the Diaspora in light of their historic support for Ethiopia.
1954 – May, the Jamaican Government raids and destroys Pinnacle.
1954 – 18th October, during an official visit to the UK Emperor Haile Selassie I returns to Bath and is given the Freedom of the City.
1955 - Emperor Haile Selassie I and Empress Menen celebrate their Silver Jubilee in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
1955 - Mamie Richardson, an African American artist/activist, travels to Jamaica to recruit a new generation of members for the Ethiopian World Federation (EWF). The New York branch of the EWF makes it known to Jamaicans that land in Ethiopia had been given through the Federation to the “Black people of the West”.
1956 – Sylvia Pankhurst migrates permanently to Ethiopia.
1956 – The Custos of Saint James parish writes to the Governor of Jamaica requesting that Sylvia Pankhurst’s “New Times and Ethiopia News” be banned from circulation on the island.
1958 - March 1st- 21st, the first national Grounation (ritual gathering of Rastafari) is held in Jamaica. The Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress (EABIC) is officially formed. Hon. Prince Emannuel of the EABIC sends a telegram to Queen Elizabeth II calling for repatriation.
1958 – Emperor Haile Selassie I gifts Fairfield House to the people of Bath to be used as a respite for the elderly.
Late 1950s – Rastafari brethren arrive in the UK from EWF Local 37 in Jamaica with a mission to link with Ethiopian institutions in Britain. In 1960 they make representation to the Ethiopian Embassy in London requesting an official EWF charter and are given the name “Jamaica Working Committee”.
1960 – With growing antagonism towards Rastafari by the colonial government, the University College of the West Indies publishes a detailed report on “The Ras Tafari Movement in Kingston, Jamaica”.
1961 – The Jamaican government sponsors a technical mission to Africa in order to scope out the possibilities of settlement in African countries for Jamaican subjects. The mission includes three Rastafari members who write letters to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and Queen Elizabeth II as they pass through the UK in April.
1962 – 6th August, Jamaican independence.
1963 – April, widespread police abuse and public persecution of the Rastafari movement in Jamaica builds to a crescendo with the “Coral Gardens incident” near Montego Bay. Tensions escalate over the next few years.
1963 – 25th May, the Organization of African Unity is inaugurated in Addis Ababa, with Emperor Haile Selassie I as the first Chairperson.
1964 - Desmond Christie becomes the first Rastafarian to repatriate to Shashamene from the UK.
1966 – April, Emperor Haile Selassie I makes official visits to Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica and Haiti. The visit elevates the public profile of Rastafari in Jamaica for the first time.
1968 – The Twelve Tribes of Israel, an influential Rastafari “mansion”, is established by Vernon Carrington (Prophet Gad) in Kingston, Jamaica.
1969 – Rastafari in the UK are central in the formation of the People’s Democratic Movement and the United Black People's Improvement Organisation, overtly militant African groups. The Rastafari Movement in the UK becomes public-facing and explicitly political.
1972 – Emperor Haile Selassie I makes an informal visit to the UK and advises Prime Minister Edward Heath on Rhodesia and the anti-Apartheid struggle.
1972 - Emperor Yohannes Local 33 of the EWF is established in London.
1972 – A squat in St Agnes Place, Kennington, London is taken over by Rastafari. The building becomes Rastafari HQ, hosting, initially, the Twelve Tribes of Israel and offices of the EWF. “Rasta International” is responsible for the administration of the building.
Early/mid 1970s – In the context of anti-Apartheid and Third World liberation struggles, a generation of UK-raised Black youth confront the social inequalities and racial discrimination that they experience. Rastafari is a seminal influence in the ensuing confrontations, especially in Birmingham and London.
1973 – Bob Marley and the Wailers perform on the BBC’s “Old Grey Whistle Test”. Roots reggae music and “sound system” culture become a crucial incubator of the Rastafari movement in the UK.
1974 – At the request of EWF Local 33 the first Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church is established in the UK.
1974 – The government of Emperor Haile Selassie I is deposed in a communist coup orchestrated by the Derg, a coordinating committee of the Armed Forces, Police, and Territorial Army.
1974 – Demonstration to the Ethiopian Embassy concerning the coup, organized by EWF local 33 and members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church.
1976 – EWF local 33 organizes a 1,500 strong demonstration to the Jamaican High Commission, London, in protest at the forced trimming and shaving of Rastafari by Jamaican security forces.
1978 – Rastafari Universal Zion, a Tottenham based organization under the stewardship of Jah Bones, begins publication of “The Voice of Rasta”.
1979 – Len Garrison publishes the first in-depth analysis of Rastafari in the UK entitled “Black youth, Rastafarianism, and the Identity Crisis in Britain”.
1981 – Lord Scarman engages with the Rastafari movement in preparation for his famous report into the urban insurrections of 1981.
1981 – A major Rastafari conference is held at Brixton Town Hall. All participating organisations decide to unite under the EWF.
1981 - The Rastafari Advisory Service and the Rastafarian Women’s Organization start to provide social services to Rastafari families and communities. These developments signal the rise of Rastafari women as an active organizational force in the UK.
1982 – A report by the Catholic Commission for Racial Justice urges recognition of Rastafari as a valid religion in the UK.
1984 – Demonstration to the Ethiopian Embassy concerning the Derg, organised by newly established Imperial Ethiopian World Federation Incorporated.
1986 – “Rastafari Focus '86" is marked by the first visit of Patriarch Ras Boanerges to the UK from Jamaica, full-taking (participating) in a range of community events during the UK's year of "Caribbean Focus".
1986 – Rastafari start to make a concerted effort to re-establish their relationship with Fairfield House, the former residence of Emperor Haile Selassie I in Bath.
1989 – In a landmark case, Rastafarian Trevor Dawkins wins an industrial tribunal after being turned down for a job driving UK government ministers on account of his dreadlocks.
1990s – The impact of the UK Rastafari Movement on the global repatriation agenda gathers pace in Ethiopia and across Africa.
1992 - June-August 1992, UK-based Centenary Committee for Rastafari (CCR) orchestrates the first international assembly of Rastafari in Ethiopia to celebrate the 100th Earthstrong (birthday) of Emperor Haile Selassie I.
1992-1999 - The Tabernacle building project for Shashamene is coordinated from the UK and administered by CCR.
1996 – The Haile Selassie 1st Foundation Supplementary School opens in Brixton and runs until 1999.
1998 – July, the first Nyahbinghi (“Binghi”) seven day “Ises” (praises) is held in Hereford.
2000 - Rasta Brown challenges court case over possession of Marijuana by appealing to the new UK Human Rights Act.
2000s – The Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress (EABIC) establishes a notable presence in the UK.
2001 - Peace officers from the Haile Selassie Peace Foundation start to accompany the Birmingham police on street patrols.
2002 - Ras Cos Tafari wins case regarding racial discrimination at an Employments Tribunal.
2003 – Award-winning Rastafari poet Benjamin Zephaniah rejects an OBE in protest at government policies including the decision to go to war with Iraq.
2005 – St Agnes Place is demolished by Lambeth Council.
2006 - The National Nyahbinghi Council UK is established.
2012 – Birmingham-based Rastafari Heritage are appointed as the Rastafari faith advisors for the National Offending Management Service (NOMS) and become official chaplains in a number of prisons.
2012 - Friends of Fairfield House is set up to safeguard the future of Fairfield House. Rastafari members feature prominently in the community group.
2014 – May 25th, Rastafari Regal Livity, a community interest company, provide the UK component to a global exhibit, Ras Tafari: The Majesty and the Movement, held at the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa.
2014 – Aug 1st, Rastafari Movement United Kingdom (RMUK) organize a successful and large march through London to present a petition demanding reparatory justice from the UK Government.
2015 - Declaration of United Nations International Decade for people of African Descent under the themes Recognition, Justice and Development.
2016 – June 14th, Rastafari in Motion exhibition opens at the Black Cultural Archives, London.
2017 - November 1-7th, The All Africa Rastafari Gathering (AARG) convenes in Shashemene, Ethiopia with a strong contingent from Britain.