Little Bits of History

Haile Selassie

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 2, 2014
Haile Selassie

Haile Selassie

November 2, 1930: Lij Tafari Makonnen takes the Ethiopian throne. Lij means “child” and indicates the person is of noble birth. His given name, Tafari, means “one who is respected and feared” and like most Ethiopians it is followed by his father’s personal name. Rarely, the grandfather’s name is used – Woldemikael. When the young man was made governor of Harer he became known as Ras (or head) Teferi Makonnen. The rank is equivalent to that of Duke although it is sometimes translated as Prince. In 1916, Empress Zewditu I appointed him to Balemulu Silt’an Enderase (Regent Plenipotentiary) and in 1928, she granted him the throne of Shoa and his title became Negus or King. When she died, he assumed the throne of Ethiopia and took his Ge’ez name – Haile Selassie.

On this day, he was crowned as King of Kings. Haile means “Power of” and Selassie means “trinity”. His full title in office was “His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God”. Ethiopian dynastic tradition is reflected in the title. All monarchs must be able to trace their lineage back to Menelik I, the offspring of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Menelik was the first Solomonic Emperor of Ethiopia (Sheba was the ancient name for the lands that are today, Ethiopia). He is credited with bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia following a visit to Jerusalem to meet his father after reaching adulthood.

Haile Selassie was born in 1892 and his lineage has been carefully documented. His father was the governor of Harar and served as a general during the First Italo-Ethiopian War. Haile Selassie was given titular governorship of Selale in 1906 at the age of 14 but was also expected to continue his studies. The next year, more titles were conveyed. His role in deposing Iyasu V has been studied extensively, using his own narrative. Iyasu’s behavior was scandalous and he was deposed in 1916. After stabilization in Ethiopia, Ras Tafafi toured Europe and the Middle East. He hoped to secure rights to the sea but was unsuccessful. After his return to Ethiopia, his authority was challenged and the challenge was met. He rose to the throne on this day.

His rule, like everything else, is controversial. He condemned the use of chemical weapons at the League of Nations in 1936. His internationalist views helped Ethiopia become a charter member of the United Nations. He promoted multilateralism and collective security. He suppressed rebellions among the nobles and failed to modernize adequately, according to his critics. He was chastised for ruling in a repressive and undemocratic manner. The Rastafarian movement has less than a million followers, but they believe he is the returned messiah of the Bible. Haile Selassie was an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian throughout his life and is a defining figure of both Ethiopian and African history. He ruled until September 1974 and died in August of 1975 at the age of 83.

Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.

History teaches us that unity is strength, and cautions us to submerge and overcome our differences in the quest for common goals, to strive, with all our combined strength, for the path to true African brotherhood and unity.

An awareness of our past is essential to the establishment of our personality and our identity as Africans.

Do not worship me, I am not God. I’m only a man. I worship Jesus Christ. – all from Haile Selassie

Also on this day: Mo Ri Xon– In 1965, Norman Morrison lit himself on fire in front of the Pentagon as a war protest.
Rah Rah – In 1898, organized cheerleading began.
North and South Dakota – In 1889, the two states were added to the Union.
Is That Your Final Answer? – In 1959, Charles Van Doren testified to Congress.


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