Leonard P. Howell

For the footballer and cricketer, see Leonard Howell (footballer).

Leonard Percival Howell (born June 16, 1898 in Clarendon Parish[1] died February 25, 1981), known as The Gong[2] or G.G. Maragh (for Gong Guru), was a Jamaican religious figure. According to his biographer Hélène Lee,[3] Howell was born in an Anglican family. He was one of the first preachers of the Rastafari movement (along with Joseph Hibbert, Archibald Dunkley, and Robert Hinds), and is sometimes known as The First Rasta.

Born in May Crawle River, Jamaica, Howell left the country as a youth, traveling amongst other places to New York, and returned in 1932. He began preaching in 1933 about what he considered the symbolic portent for the African diaspora—the crowning of Ras Tafari Makonnen as Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. His preaching asserted that Haile Selassie was the "Messiah returned to earth," and he published a book called The Promise Key. Although this resulted in him being arrested, tried for sedition and imprisoned for two years, the Rastafari movement grew.[4]

Over the following years, Howell came into conflict with all the establishment authorities in Jamaica: the planters, the trade unions, established churches, police and colonial authorities, and he was allegedly arrested more than 50 times. He formed a town or commune called Pinnacle in Saint Catherine Parish that became famous as a place for Rastafarians. Nevertheless, this movement prospered, and today the Rastafari faith exists worldwide. Unlike many Rastas Howell never wore dreadlocks.

Leonard Howell died in Kingston, Jamaica.

Howell's doctrine of Rastafari

Though imprisoned for it, Howell published his doctrine with the title The Promise Key under the pen name G.G. Maragh. Some of the themes were later discarded in the movement, but the main ones in this book included:

  • revenge on White people for their wickedness
  • the negation, persecution, and humiliation of the government and legal bodies of Jamaica
  • preparation to go back to Africa, and
  • acknowledging Emperor Haile Selassie as the Supreme Being and King of Kings.


External links

  • Trailer for Helene Lee's documentary about Leonard Howell, the first Rasta
  • Howell: man of heroic proportions
  • article on Howell
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