The emergence of the Rastafarian movement marks the arrival of a truly Jamaican identity within popular culture. A social movement launched in the 1930s with nationalist intentions and visions of repatriation, Rastafarianism drew inspiration and images from the coronation of the late-20th century Ethiopian leader, Haile Selassie I, Jamaican-born black nationalist Marcus Garvey and stories from the Old Testament that were interpreted to define Selassie as the 225th descendant of the biblical family of the House of David and a living God.
Marcus Garvey was revered as a prophet for – among other things – foretelling the coming of Selassie, but especially for his leadership in establishing the international organisation The Universal Negro Improvement Association that advocated black self-reliance and a back-to-Africa movement.
Music was the public relations branch of the Rasta movement. Reggae artists used Garvey's philosophies and method to propagate equal rights. In Jamaica, not only does Garvey's image adorn the country's 50c bill, but it also appears on urban zinc fences and in working and middle class homes on calendars and canvasses. Through album covers, both Garvey and Selassie became iconic figures to a world captivated by reggae music.
With its international breakthrough and recognition, Reggae music has expressed the essence of Jamaican society, added voices of the Diaspora and revealed the plight of the worlds oppressed.