Maintaining Leonard Howell’s Legacy

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - July 13, 2011

By Alexander Britell

Thirty years after his death, a group of Jamaicans are working to keep alive the legacy of Leonard Howell, a Jamaican religious figure considered to be the first Rastafarian.

Monty Howell, one Howell’s sons, is in a legal bid to get control of Leonard’s one time home in St Catherine, in Spanish Town, trying to honor the memory of his father, an influential figure in the first half of the twentieth century.

“He was the first person that mentioned Rastafari,” Monty Howell told Caribbean Journal. “He was the first person that was persecuted because of his ideology and Rastafari. Right now, we want to make an archive [at the home]. I would like to have a place to have a museum, an archive, to help facilitate people coming there.”

Monty, who now lives in Florida, said Jamaica’s National Heritage Trust was also trying to get landmark status for the site, along with a national status for his father.

Despite an important role in the afro-centric movement and his pioneering of Rastafarianism, Howell’s legacy has gone through a series of changes over the decades. Also forgotten, Monty said, were the series of mental and physical trials he endured as a result of his political and religious beliefs.

This was highlighted by Howell’s reported absence at the 1966 visit of Haile Selassie to Jamaica, something Monty said was due to political oppression against his father.

“In the 1960s, my father was basically, as far as the government was concerned, a nobody,” he said. “He was almost zero. He was persecuted to the point of almost unspeakable harassment, and any normal person would have been gone a long time before that. The only Rastas that could get close to the emperor were those who were politically connected, because the government was totally hostile to my father, going back to the 1930s.”

“At one time, he was almost zero,” Monty said. “Until people started to research him, and Rastafarians gained strength. Because in the 1950s, a Rasta person was a person that people looked down on.”

Monty Howell is not alone in working to honor the story, however. A group of citizens in the neighborhood where Howell once lived in Spanish Town is now working to start a museum honoring his story.

“What we are planning on doing is setting up a library,” said Valerie Williams of the Tredegar Park Citizens’ Association. “We started refurbishing the [Tredegar Park] civic center, and doing some expansion — we want a place where we can have access to the library. The community wants our heritage here.”

Williams said the values Howell espoused — peace, love, unity — made it essential to keep his history alive.

“He was trying to organize his people in such a way to promote unity, love, peace — those core values, those values that could help us,” she said. “We have seen that working here now, and we have seen it working, with those members who remain trying to have that value system going. [Howell] means so much to us.”

Monty Howell’s quest to set up a museum at Leonard’s former home has been a nearly decade-long struggle, first begun by his sisters.

“We’re working on it full speed,” he said. “Even if we don’t get it, it’s inevitable that we’ll get this land back. Maybe not in my lifetime, but sooner or later. Christ wasn’t famous until 500 years after his death. It’s something that is coming, not something that is going away. Rastafarianism is not getting less. It’s something that is expanding on every continent.”

Popular Posts cape santa maria

The Best Caribbean Beach Resort You’ve Never Heard of 

There’s a boat just offshore called “Escape.”  It’s bobbing in some of the most brilliant, dynamic turquoise water I’ve ever seen, a few meters from a stretch of sand so bright and so white you have to squint to look […]

Marriott Is Opening Its New St Regis Resort In Aruba 

aruba st regis inside the restaurant with chairs

It was more than a decade ago that Marriott opened its first-ever Ritz-Carlton resort in the Dutch Caribbean: the Ritz-Carlton, Aruba, which at the time was the island’s first true five-star resort.  Fast forward to 2024, and Marriott is set […]

From All-Inclusive Resorts to Beaches, Travelers Are Falling in Love With Antigua and Barbuda

antigua barbuda frontier airlines the peninsula with sand

The plunge-pool villas at Hammock Cove. The historic streets of Nelson’s Dockyard. Pool days at Sheer Rocks. Unforgettable honeymoons. Vibrant meals of pepperpot and fungee. Beach bar hopping on the south coast. Endless serenity in Barbuda.  Travelers keep flocking to […]

Related Posts beach at the mousai

The Future of Tour Operators in the Caribbean

This summer, ALG Vacations (ALGV) will be launching Luxe by ALG Vacations, a comprehensive luxury travel program designed to cater to a high-end clientele. Many advisors feel this move is yet another indicator that the tour operator business has become […]

In Grenada, the Caribbean's Best New Luxury Resort

grenada view of resort

Your suite or villa comes with its own pool. All of them do. Every single suite at the new Six Senses in Grenada is nearly 600 sq ft with an expansive deck looking out at the lagoon, the bay or […]

Royal Caribbean Has Another New Cruise Ship, With Short Getaways in Mind  

pool deck with canopy on cruise ship

If you’re planning on a summertime cruise to the Caribbean, Royal Caribbean has another new option for you: the ambitiously-named Utopia of the Seas, which is headed to Port Canaveral for a July launch.  The massive new ship officially joined […]


Sign up for Caribbean Journal's free newsletter for a daily dose of beaches, hotels, rum and the best Caribbean travel information on the net.

No. Thank You