Haile Selassie had a busy 1942, the year this photo was taken. The emperor, exiled during the Italian occupation, returned to Ethiopia; he abolished the legal basis for slavery; and tried to institute a progressive tax structure.

Photograph by British Press Service, courtesy Library of Congress

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  • On April 2, 1930, Ras Tafari Makonnen became Emperor Haile Selassie. Selassie was the last reigning monarch of Ethiopia’s Solomonic Dynasty. The Solomonic Dynasty traces its ancient ancestry to King Solomon of Israel and the Queen of Sheba, biblical figures who may have lived during the 10th century BCE.
    Ethiopia is often acknowledged as the only nation in Africa never to have been colonized, and Selassie emerged as a powerful international figure as other African countries sought independence in the 20th century. His long reign and enduring policies (such as support for African unity and the abolition of slavery in Ethiopia) earned him a privileged position at international summits. For instance, Selassie was one of the highest-ranking diplomats at the funeral of U.S. President John Kennedy. 
    Selassie’s greatest impact may have been on the island of Jamaica. Jamaican religious leaders adopted a version of his birth name, Tafari (Ras was an official title) and Rastafarians regard Selassie as a god. (Selassie himself remained a Christian throughout his life.)
    Selassie may have been more popular abroad than he was in Ethiopia. Under his leadership, Ethiopians endured famine and war, most notably over the region of Eritrea, which achieved independence in 1993. Selassie was overthrown by military leaders in 1974.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    abolition Noun

    ending or wiping out of something, usually referring to the ending of slavery.

    abroad Adverb

    in a foreign country.

    acknowledge Verb

    to recognize the truth or existence of something.

    adopt Verb

    to take over or nurture an idea or responsibility as if it were one's own.

    ancestry Noun

    family (genealogical) or historical background.

    biblical Adjective

    having to do with the Bible, the holy book of Christianity.

    Christian Noun

    people and culture focused on the teachings of Jesus and his followers.

    colonize Verb

    to establish control of a foreign land and culture.

    diplomat Noun

    person who negotiates important political and economic agreements, usually for a government.

    dynasty Noun

    series of rulers from one family or group.

    emerge Verb

    to develop or come into view.

    emperor Noun

    ruler of an empire.

    famine Noun

    an extreme shortage of food in one area during a long period of time.

    God Noun

    spiritual deity recognized by a religion as the only supreme being in the universe.

    impact Noun

    meaning or effect.

    independence Noun

    state or situation of being free.

    military Noun

    armed forces.

    monarch Noun

    king or queen.

    privilege Noun

    benefit or special right.

    Rastafarian Adjective

    follower of the Rastafari movement, a Jamaican monotheistic spirituality that worships Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I as an embodiment of God, whom they call Jah.

    reign Verb

    to rule as a monarch.

    slavery Noun

    process and condition of owning another human being or being owned by another human being.

    summit Noun

    meeting or conference of top leaders.