The Process of Becoming Black: Leonard Howell and the Revelation of Rastafari

13 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2013

Date Written: December 26, 2013


This chapter deals with the process of how a person who is born physically black becomes also psychologically black. The foregoing separates physical blackness from mental blackness, which may surprise some people. This separation explains why some black people are grounded in their racial consciousness unlike others because they were converted to psychological blackness through racial socialisation. Rastafari in Jamaica is a classic exemplar of black racial socialisation through religious conversion. This conversion leads to the development of moral blackness. Racial identity is the strong regard people attach to their race thereby making it an important part of their sense of self.This article uses Nigrescence theory or the process of becoming black to explain the black religious conversion of Leonard Percival Howell, the first Rasta man.The chapter starts with an outline of Nigrescence and its application to Rastas, non-Rastas and the theory’s connection to the tradition of radical blackness in Jamaica. Next is the application of the theory to explain Howell’s process of becoming black, in which he developed a positive black racial identity.

Keywords: Leonard Howell, First Rasta, Black Identity Development, Nigrescence

Suggested Citation

Charles, Christopher, The Process of Becoming Black: Leonard Howell and the Revelation of Rastafari (December 26, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Christopher Charles (Contact Author)

University of the West Indies ( email )

Kingston 7
Mona, Mona Kingston 7

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