The First Rasta

The First Rasta
The First Rasta

The First Rasta

Leonard Howell and the Rise of Rastafarianism
By Hélène Lee, Introduction by Stephen Davis


320 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Trade Paper, PDF, Mobipocket, EPUB

Trade Paper, $19.99 (US $19.99) (CA $26.99)

ISBN 9781556525582

Rights: WOR

Chicago Review Press (Jan 2004)
Lawrence Hill Books


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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.

Author Biography

Hélène Lee is a journalist for Libération, specializing in the music of Africa and the Caribbean. An intrepid journalist, she has spent years exploring the dangerous ghettos and mountainous jungles of Jamaica in researching this book. She lives in Clichy, France. Stephen Davis is the author of Walk This Way, Bob Marley, and Hammer of the Gods. He lives in Milton, Massachusetts.