Haile Selassie, emperor of the African nation of Ethiopia for fifty-eight years, was deposed on this day in 1974. Born in 1892 and serving as regent for Lij Iyasu, the eighteen year old designated emperor, who was deposed in 1916, only three years after the death of the previous emperor. He began amassing an army and travelling the world in the following decade, growing a base of devoted supporters that would eventually turn into the Rastafari, a religion based on the idea that Selassie, or Ras Tafari, was the Messiah. In 1928, the Empress of Ethiopia crowned Selassie as King of Ethiopia, with the Kingdom covering the same lands as her Empire, something that was unheard of in Ethiopia and caused political unrest among the conservative citizens. A revolt followed, led by the Empress’s husband. In the following battles, the Emperor was killed, with the Empress dying soon after. Selassie was crowned in November of 1930 as “King of Kings”.
Selassie began modernizing Ethiopia, preparing himself from the oncoming European colonists who sought to establish control over Ethiopian lands. He fought primarily against the Italians, led by Mussolini, and was forced into exile, returning to rule over Ethiopia after the end of World War Two and the beginning of the end of European colonial dominance over Africa. He began instituting reforms, modernizing the Ethiopian economy and industry, earning him great support and respect from foreign powers, but in his later years saw his popularity falling. Following a famine and an economic crisis, Selassie was deposed in a coup, and imprisoned by rebels. He died in prison in August of 1975 of respiratory failure, although his cause of death is disputed to this day.