Rastafari originated in the 1930s in Jamaica. Aspects of the movement are both messianic and millenarian.
The Ethiopian King, Haile Selassie I (1892‐1975), is identified by Rastas as the messiah, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the redeemer of God’s chosen people. In the early days of the movement, black people were identified as God’s chosen people who would be saved because they were special to God; it was they who, as the ‘true’ Israelites referred to in the Bible, were in a covenant relationship with God.Rastafari can be seen as a response to the history of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. The early Rastafari preachers vehemently rejected white colonial society and European Protestantism as oppressive. Jamaica, 92 per cent of whose population were descendants of the African slave trade, remained part of the British Empire until 1962, and early 20th century social order continued to treat black people as second-class citizens.Millenarianism in Rastafari is expressed through the concept of repatriation, with the return to Africa being conceived of in physical, spiritual, and psychological terms. The descendants of those who were forcibly taken as slaves continued to live in exile in Babylon, the biblical symbol for white, colonial society or, more generally, for anything identified as evil or oppressive. Africa, often referred to simply as ‘Ethiopia’ as the biblical term for Africa, is identified as the Promised Land, also called Zion. Haile Selassie I, in his role as messiah, would come to save his people in Jamaica, which in the early movement was identified with hell. The saved will sail to the Promised Land of Africa in seven miles of ships, leaving darkness and hellfire, with Babylon being destroyed in its wake.