From Publishers Weekly
Powerful historical and social forces come together in Libration journalist Lee's extraordinarily useful book, which appeared in 1999 to acclaim. Jamaican prophet Leonard Howell's revelations in the 1920s about the symbolic portent for the African diaspora of Ras Tafari's crowning as Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia led to the birth of one of the 20th century's most enduring and influential religious awakenings. The colonial forces that ruthlessly suppressed Howell and Rastafarianism in his lifetime have also hidden much of his biography, which Lee has reconstructed through impeccable research and dogged sleuthing. Partly a record of its author's journey in search of those who knew and followed Howell, The First Rasta moves with a truth seeker's determination through the slums of Trenchtown and Jamaica's back country, revealing a dauntingly complex landscape and history in which oral history is often more reliable than the written record. Between his part in the intellectual ferment of the Harlem of Langston Hughes and Marcus Garvey, and the destruction of his religious compound in the late '50s, Howell endured lengthy stays in both prisons and mental hospitals, but emerges in these pages as confident and vindicated. Lee's passionate biography, which includes 11 b&w photos, should draw in not only for students of religion, reggae or Jamaican history but has something to offer to anyone interested in the people and ideas that continue to shape the postcolonial world.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Lee, a French journalist, draws on extensive knowledge about the Rastafarian movement made famous by Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley. Considerably less famous is Leonard Howell, the man who developed the movement, cobbling together African culture, divine adoration of Ethiopian ruler Haile Selassie, and the aspirations of African diaspora of the Americas. Lee visited the remains of the Pinnacle, the Rasta compound maintained by Howell in Jamaica in the 1940s with more than 4,000 members and an independent agricultural enterprise that produced and exported marijuana. She recaptures the history of the religion and culture, spawned from the grinding poverty and a people hungry for a god and a place of their own. Howell lived for a while in New York, crossed paths with Marcus Garvey, and eventually returned to the turbulent Jamaican political and economic environment that influenced the spread of Rastafarianism with its trademark dreadlocks, ganja, and reggae. Readers interested in Jamaican culture and the Rasta movement will appreciate this insightful look at one of the most influential mystical movements of the twentieth century. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved