This paper begins with Psalm 68:31, “Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” Coined “the Ethiopian Prophecy,” this biblical verse, is important because Garvey frequently referred to it, and Ethiopia, in his speeches throughout the 1920s. His now famous utterance, "Look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is at hand," can be interpreted as a rendering, reinterpretation, or even fulfillment of that verse. With this statement, Ethiopianists in Jamaica interpreted the crowning of Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia as the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy. However, Psalm 68:31 is even more important for its long history of use among Anglophone Afrikans in the Diaspora, and it is one of the pillars of Ethiopianism. This paper will trace the history of Ethiopianism, how it gave rise to proto-Rastafari movements, and how the latter incorporating Garveyism, ultimately gave birth to Rastafari.
Foundations of Ethiopianism
Hermeneutic scholars had long wrestled with the meaning of Psalm 68:31. To the Egyptian Church Father, Origen, the psalm meant Ethiopia was a synecdoche for Gentiles. To Augustine, another Afrikan descended Church Father, it suggested that and much more: Ethiopia was a remote land; Ethiopia would convert to Christianity; it was a prophecy of Christ’s universal salvation. (Within Judaism, some rabbis interpreted the verse to mean Ethiopia will convert to Judaism.) However, in the end, Church Fathers and early theologians interpreted the verse to mean: Ethiopia was the converted sinner, who through faith will enter into God’s new order, via Christ. In the early 1700s, since West Afrikans were not Christians, Christian thinkers concluded that Psalm 68:31 had not yet been fulfilled; hence, Ethiopians (Negroes) had to be Christianized. This led to missionary emigration, in which Britain sought to proselytize Christianity to free and enslaved Ethiopians, in her colonies and Afrika.
Initially the idea of “giving slaves religion” was rejected by slave masters for two reasons: first, masters feared that stories like Moses leading the Israelites out of bondage might encourage behaviors that challenge enslavement, and second, that baptism would give the enslaved a claim to freedom. But once the latter fear proved unfounded, as colonial legislatures passed laws stating a bondsman’s conversion did not alter his legal status, conversion proceeded rapidly. The first concern, masters believed they could resolve through Christianization. They perceived Christianization as a means of perpetuating slavery, and a way to control the enslaved. This religious indoctrination was designed to keep them docile, servile, obedient, and content. These objectives could only be achieved with “slave” Bibles and teachings that supported the status quo. However, for the brutalized and dehumanized enslaved Afrikan, religion provided hope and cathartic escape. When the enslaved embraced Christianity, and especially evangelical Protestantism, their motivations were entirely different from their masters’ intentions. Afrikans established what was called the “invisible church” where worship was conducted out of the view of whites, usually deep in the woods late at night. This church allowed the enslaved to worship in a way that was meaningful to them. From these churches religious songs developed known as “spirituals” that expressed defiance toward slavery and a hope for freedom. Often these songs functioned even more explicitly as expressions of resistance, encoding messages about secret meetings or providing directions for escape. The songs spread as the enslaved were traded from plantation to plantation. It was also in the invisible church that the enslaved Afrikans instinctively identified their plight with the ancient Israelites. As Afrikans were exposed to stories from the Bible, they saw parallels to their own situation. For example, in the story of the exile of the Israelites and their captivity in Babylon, they saw a mirror of their own captivity. In the story of David and Goliath, it gave inspiration that the weak could beat the strong. And the story of Jesus as Messiah offered the enslaved hope for salvation, if not in this life, then in the next. This affinity to the ancient Israelites was natural, but in addition to this affinity, another one developed between themselves and the Ethiopians.
Ironically, this association was fostered by white society. In the Anglophone world, since Christian thinkers and writers, such as George Fox, Cotton Mathers, and the Judge Samuel Sewall had associated the blackness of Ethiopians with the phenotype of the enslaved, all Negroes became identified as Ethiopians. Therefore, we can assume that because European Christians had adopted the term Ethiopian as a racial designation, the enslaved naturally began to identify as such. Initially, the enslaved identified with their ethnic group, such as the Yoruba, Asante, Fon, Mandinka, BaKongo, etc. They saw themselves as a separate people, but the designation as Ethiopians created a sense of oneness. Not just in the condition of enslavement was there a commonality, but now as a race there was a basis for identity across ethnicities. Additionally, once the enslaved learned that both Egypt and Ethiopia were in Afrika, their land of origin, it further facilitated an Ethiopian identity.
The religious revival movement known as the Great Awakening led to the proliferation of the Baptist and Methodist denominations within Protestantism. It swept through Protestant Europe and the British colonies, especially her American colonies during the 1730s and 1740s. The Baptists and Methodists preached to whites and Blacks alike; among the latter, they converted and authorized congregations for free Blacks and the enslaved. This was especially true in the Baptist Church, where Afrikan Americans were welcomed as members and preachers. A Second Great Awakening, nearly sixty years later only accelerated this revivalist trend, and by the late 18th early 19th centuries, independent Afrikan American congregations numbered in the hundreds. In addition to offering salvation, these churches attracted Afrikans for another reason: the hope of freedom. From the beginning, unlike the Anglican and Catholic churches, the Baptist and Methodist churches opposed slavery and urged manumission, taking an active role in the anti-slavery movement. As a result, these evangelical Protestant churches inspired and increased the demand for freedom by the enslaved. Moreover, in some cases, in the Black church, rebellions were planned at revival meetings, such as the revolt by Gabriel Prosser in 1800.
Established around 1758, the Afrikan Baptist or "Bluestone" Church was the first known Afrikan church in America. It was founded on the William Byrd plantation near the Bluestone River, in Mecklenburg, Virginia. One of the oldest Black churches (in terms of having its own physical structure) was the First African Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia, which was established in 1777. Originally called the Ethiopian Baptist Church of Jesus Christ, this church was associated with the pastoral life of George Liele, who later became the first American missionary. Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, in 1794, established the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the first independent Afrikan church. In 1816, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.—affectionately known as "Mother Emanuel," was established and would become the church of Denmark Vesey, leader of the largest planned slave rebellion in American history. The church would be implicated in the plot and subsequently razed. Years later, the enslaved Baptist preacher Nat Turner, would plan his revolt at religious gatherings.
Were these various uprisings simply the Afrikan’s desired to be free, or was the fact that religious leaders led most of them of some significance? Earlier we looked at how early Christians interpreted Psalm 68:31; were these rebellions motivated by Afrikans’ interpretation of this Psalm? While slave narratives and the spirituals give some indication of possible interpretations of the Ethiopian Prophecy, in 1829, we get a clear declaration of how the Afrikan church in America was interpreting Psalm 68:31. An Afrikan American preacher named Robert Alexander Young writes The Ethiopian Manifesto, arguing for universal freedom for Black people, and drawing parallels between the biblical Jews and the presently enslaved Afrikans/Ethiopians. Young identifies all Black people as Ethiopians, stating there is a connection among all Black women, men, and children because of Psalm 68:31. His pamphlet is a call to unity (proto-Pan Afrikanism). He argues that Afrikan Americans, whether free or enslaved, were living in a land of wickedness and sin. As a result, God will deliver His children to a state of grace, that this deliverance is part of God’s plan. For Young, this deliverance would come through the work of a messiah. He felt history had demonstrated that God divinely appoints messengers, such as Noah, Moses, and Jesus, to act as a point of contact between the human and the divine with one primary purpose: to rescue God’s chosen people (Ethiopians) from a land doomed to destruction.
 Roy Kay, The Ethiopian Prophecy in Black American Letters, (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2011), https://muse.jhu.edu/, p. 2.
 Ethiopianism, which was derived from various biblical verses and passages, helped the enslaved Afrikans develop a new identity that gave them a sense of pride and worth by identifying first with an Afrikan people that were historically important, Ethiopians, and second it allowed them to identify with the sufferings of the ancient Israelites, and see themselves presently as God’s chosen people, whom He will assist in their quest for freedom.
 We must make a distinction between Ethiopianism and The Ethiopian Movement (TEM). The former grew from the experience of enslavement and we have therefore associated it as mainly or initially a Diasporan expression. It was the precursor to Pan Afrikanism and like it, both were exported to Afrika. On the other hand, TEM is mostly a continental phenomenon. Though both were fueled by religious inspiration, in fact, both drew inspiration from Psalm 68:31; but the former preceded and influenced the latter, and developed in response to enslavement and exposure to Christianity; whereas the latter was primarily a Pan Afrikan religious movement that developed during the Afrikan colonial period in southern Afrika. Thus, the emphasis of the former was on freedom from slavery, while the latter sought religious freedom and expression within Christianity. Regarding TEM, in 1888, an evangelist named Joseph Mathunye Kanyane Napothe broke away from the white controlled Anglican Church and formed the African Church. Later In 1892, a minister of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Mangena Maake Mokone, broke away from that denomination and formed the Ethiopian Church. (One of the main reasons for breaking away was to give Afrikan spiritual sensibilities greater expression.) Mokone preaching’s included the theme of "Africa for the Africans," (a concept first echoed by Edward Wilmot Blyden) which was later a pillar of the UNIA and ACL. The African Church united under the Ethiopian Church and briefly formed a union in 1896 with the African Methodist Church of America, which was then under the leadership of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner. This movement for Afrikan spiritual expression is the basis for the Ethiopian movement.
4 Kay, p. 33.
5 Kay, p. 34.
6 When Paul Cuffee first made his historic repatriation of free Afrikan American to Afrika, he did so as a missionary emigrant, hoping to civilized Afrikans by way of Christianity.
 Kenneth Stamp, The Peculiar Institution (New York: Random House, 1956), p. 158.
8 Stamp, p. 159
9 Vincent Harding, There Is A River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America (New York: Vintage Books, 1983), p. 55.
10 For more information on Liele and his church read, Doreen Morrison, “George Liele and the Ethiopian Baptist Church: The First Credible Baptist Missionary Witness to the World,” p. 3, http://www.bwa-baptist-heritage.org/Liele-Morrison.pdf.
11 Herbert Aptheker, A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States (Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1973), v.1, pp. 90-93.
12 The person that raised Ethiopianism beyond its religious parameters to a post-slavery racial unity aimed at the political improvement of Afrika was Edward Wilmot Blyden (of St Thomas, Virgin Islands), who worked for the American Colonization society and was stationed in Liberia.
Ethiopianism was the perspective of abolitionists David Walker and the Reverend Henry Highland Garnet, who both cited the Ethiopian Prophecy for inspiration. In his Appeal, Walker begins by telling us he serves the God of the Ethiopians. Further, he states that: We were not always white men’s slaves and our time will come again, for the Bible says, “Princes shall come out of Egypt and Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hand unto God.” He then calls for outright slave insurrections in the name of God. (Walker’s call for rebellion scared the white abolitionists into a new militancy, called new school abolitionism, which called for an immediate end to slavery.) Walker’s Appeal, which was written the same year as The Ethiopian Manifesto, had a profound impact on Garnet. Garnet supported Walker’s call for insurrection and added it was the obligation of free Afrikan Americans to aid and abet the enslaved. Garnet was one of the first preachers to use Christianity as a tool in the Black freedom struggle. In addition, by now, its interpretation had evolved. For Walker and Garnet, the Ethiopian Prophecy had become a call to action. (This is relevant to Jamaica, especially because Garnet was a missionary emigrant in Jamaica for three years.)
The Christian doctrines presented to the enslaved fostered a stereotypic attitude toward Afrika presenting it as “heathen,” “dark” and “benighted.” That is to say, Afrika was uncivilized, un-Christianized, and in need of both. In spite of this racist propaganda, Afrikans found other meaning in the Bible, and would use it to “prove” that a Black people, Ethiopians, were powerful and respected. Ethiopia came to symbolize all of Afrika, and Ethiopianism became an energizing concept in both the Diaspora and the continent throughout the 19th century.
The Afrikan church historically has been one of Afrikan people’s most important institutions. The author says this because, unlike the family that during enslavement was under master’s control, the church has been able to develop under Afrikan control. The enslaved were able to worship in the invisible and institutional church, and it is here where Ethiopianism was nurtured and developed. White Christians devised missionary emigration as a means to control the enslaved, but Ethiopianism countered by offering Blacks a sense of pride, hope, and providence. Were all Afrikan American churches Ethiopianist? We cannot be certain, but it was almost inescapable; the Christian doctrine of Divine Providence was indeed relevant to the Ethiopian Prophecy. That God, who is good and controls everything, will intervene in the world on behalf of true believers. Was it not the enslaved Ethiopian who now needed God’s assistance?
Ethiopianism, which first manifested in America, was spread via missionary emigration throughout the Anglophone world. The Baptists and Methodists, those denominations that had appealed most to Afrikan Americans, would become its main proponents, and Jamaica would become a prime target. However, it is debatable whether Ethiopianism had to be exported at all. If Ethiopianism is rooted in the confluence of slavery and evangelical Protestantism, then it is safe to say that where and whenever these two phenomena met, whether in Afrika, the Caribbean, or North America, that Ethiopianism would have autonomously developed. Nevertheless, Afrikans in America, the most Christianized Afrikans at that time, were used to export Christianity to Afrikans elsewhere in the Anglophone world.
13 David Walker, Walker’s Appeal (Boston: 1829).
14 Garnet made this argument in his famous speech, “Call to Rebellion,” delivered in August 1843, at the National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York. This speech was considered the most powerful speech given by an Afrikan American until King made his “I Have A Dream” speech more than a hundred years later.
15 During his stay in Jamaica, his wife, Julia Ward Williams, who had studied at Prudence Crandall's school in Canterbury, Connecticut, and also at Noyes Academy, she headed the Female Industrial School.
16 St Clair Drake, The Redemption of Africa and Black Religion (Chicago: Third World Press, 1970), p. 53.
17 Drake, p. 11.
18 In colonial America, the enslaved were forbidden to practice any religion but Christianity. Moreover, attendance at church services was compulsory for many of the enslaved.