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Bob Marley: One Love, a biopic celebrating the life, music, and politics of Jamaican Reggae singer Bob Marley, opened in theaters this month. It won’t spoil anything to learn that, in the movie’s opening scenes, we’re dropped into a violent moment in Jamaica’s history without much back story. The audience never gets a clear explanation of the civil war that threads through the movie, though it can be inferred that it has something to do with colonial legacies. And while snippets of Marley’s personal journey, from childhood to global superstar (a status that Marley, as played by Kingsley Ben-Adir, disavows), are revealed throughout the movie, knowledge of the Rastafari movement, Pan-Africanism, and Black Radicalism seems to be assumed by the movie-makers. (This isn’t a criticism; it does seem reasonable that if we can learn the words to Redemption Song, we can learn Jamaica’s history.)

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Marley’s lived experience as a Rasta gets a good amount of screen time, but anyone not familiar with the religion might wonder why he kicks back with a book about Haile Selassie on the tour bus (there’s more to say here, but…spoilers). The connection between Marley’s music-philosophy and the political activism of Marcus Garvey is evident in the lyrics of Redemption Song and One Love; in the movie, Garvey’s influence gets a nod in another book-reading scene. Less clear is the bigger story: how Garvey came to be understood as a Rastafari prophet, how Selassie came to be viewed as God incarnate.

If you’ve seen Bob Marley: One Love and want to learn more about Jamaica, Pan-Africanism, and the Rastafari movement, we’re here to help. Below, we’ve gathered a few stories to contextualize Marley’s politics, religion, and musical legacy.

Haile Selassie, Ethiopia, and the Rastafari Movement

Abyssinian officers

The Defense of Ethiopia from Fascism

For black activists in the 1930s, defending Ethiopia from Mussolini’s invasion created unprecedented unity.
Halie Selassie

Why a Coup in Ethiopia Created a Faith Crisis in Jamaica

Rastafarians emerged from anti-colonial, anti-racism movements of the 60s, they also looked back toward their African ancestry.
A map of Trinidad showing the location of Fondes Amandes

How a Rastafari Community Protects the Land in Trinidad

A small community grows around ecosystem preservation and shared beliefs, to the benefit of the residents and the land they live on.

Marcus Garvey, Pan-Africanism, and Black Radicalism

Claude McKay, 1920

Black Caribbeans in the Harlem Renaissance

The "Capital of Black America" was also a world capital, thanks to the influence of West Indian–born artists and writers like Claude McKay.
Marcus Garvey is shown in a military uniform as the "Provisional President of Africa" during a parade on the opening day of the annual Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World at Lenox Avenue in Harlem, New York City, 1922

Marcus Garvey’s Journey Began in Central America

Marcus Garvey left Jamaica unemployed, an anti-colonial trade unionist who British authorities considered dangerous.
Marcus Garvey, 1941

Marcus Garvey and the History of Black History

Long before the concept of multicultural education emerged, the United Negro Improvement Association pushed for the teaching of Black history and culture.
Marcus Garvey

Black Radicalism’s Complex Relationship with Japanese Empire

Black intellectuals in the U.S.—from W. E. B. Du Bois to Marcus Garvey—had strong and divergent opinions on Japanese Empire.
Walter Rodney and W.P.A members exit the Ministry of Labour & Social Security, Guyana - 1970s

Walter Rodney, Guerrilla Intellectual

Walter Rodney’s radical thought and activism led to his eventual killing by a bomb in Guyana, in 1980.

Jamaica and Its History

Jamaican plantation

The Obscured History of Jamaica’s Maroon Societies

Maroon societies in Jamaica and the rest of the Americas have survived for hundreds of years.
An Obeah figure brought to England in 1888, taken from a man arrested in Morant Bay, Jamaica, in 1887. The police had suspected him of being an Obeah-man, and thought his possession of this figure proved it.

Poison and Magic in Caribbean Uprisings

Witchcraft and poisoning were closely connected for both West Africans and the Europeans who enslaved them in the eighteenth-century Caribbean.
Edward John Eyre

When Intellectuals Split: The Eyre Case

Public intellectuals in Great Britain disagreed on what to do with Governor Eyre after his heavy-handed response to the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica.
Natural Lace from the Lace Bark Tree

Lacebark as a Symbol of Resilience

For the enslaved people of Jamaica, the lacebark tree was a valuable natural resource and a means of asserting one's dignity.
A general view of the National Windrush Monument at Waterloo Station on June 22, 2022 in London, England.

Windrush Day

There were British African Caribbean immigrants to the UK well before June 22, 1948, but it was the arrival of Empire Windrush that got the media's attention.

Music and Its Impact

Members of Tjapukai Dance Theatre

Reggae in Australia

In the 1970s, Willie Brim, a member of the Buluwai people, learned about Peter Tosh and Bob Marley from hippies who lived near his community. And the joy began.
Rock Against Racism in Trafalgar Square, London, 1978

How British Teens Blended Pop and Politics

In the 1970s, the National Front blamed immigrants for the UK's economic problems. Anti-racist groups formed in response, with the help of pop music.
English designer and typographer Roger Huddle with collaborators holding posters for 'Rock against Racism' and 'RAR/Anti Nazi League Carnival', London, UK, 27th April 1978

How Rock against Racism Fought the Right

A rising tide of violence and bigotry in the 1970s infected the British music scene. A group of musicians organized to resist.

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