The First Rasta
A fascinating biography of the forgotten founder of Rastafarianism, and an exploration of the movement’s roots and influences. Going far beyond the standard imagery of Rasta—ganja, reggae, dreadlocks—this book offers an uncensored vision of a movement with complex roots, and the exceptional journey of a man who taught an enslaved people how to be proud and impose their culture on the world. In the 1920s a handful of Jamaicans had a revelation concerning the divinity of Haile Selassie, king of Ethiopia, and founded the most popular mystical movement of the 20th century. This is the astonishing tale of Leonard Percival Howell and the first Rastas. Although jailed, ridiculed, and treated as insane, Howell, also known as the Gong, established a Rasta community of 4,500 members, the first agro-industrial enterprise devoted to producing marijuana. In the late 1950s the community was dispersed, disseminating Rasta teachings throughout the ghettos of the island. A young singer named Bob Marley adopted Howell’s message, and through Marley’s visions, reggae was ready to explode.