The Lion of Judah in the New World
Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and the Shaping of Americans' Attitudes toward Africa
by Theodore M. Vestal
February 2011, 231pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-38620-6
$55, £43, 48€, A76
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eBook Available: 978-0-313-38621-3
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Haile Selassie was the first African head of state to be honored with a tickertape parade in New York City and the first African head of state to spend the night at the White House. What was it about this charismatic leader that so captivated Americans? How did he become a symbol of all Africa?

This insightful book relates how Emperor Haile Selassie helped shape America's image of Africa and how that image continues to evolve in the United States today.

The Lion of Judah in the New World: Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and the Shaping of Americans’ Attitudes toward Africa tells the story of a dynamic ruler who influenced the perception of an entire continent. Documenting the Emperor’s state visits to North America, the book explores U.S. foreign policy towards Ethiopia and Africa over two decades. At the same time, it seeks to understand why Haile Selassie enjoyed such celebrity in the United States and how he became so important in determining U.S. attitudes toward Africa.

The book includes a brief biography of the Emperor and also explores the geography and long, colorful history of Ethiopia. The tensions and contradictions that marked Haile Selassie’s life are highlighted in significant episodes that underscore his astute use of public relations and personal diplomacy. His leadership of postcolonial Africa during the Cold War is examined, as is his ultimate rejection by the United States in 1973 that marked the end of the monarchy and ushered in the tragic fratricide of Ethiopian civil war.


  • Maps
  • Photographs
  • A bibliography of useful sources for further research
Theodore M. Vestal, PhD, is professor emeritus of political science at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Vestal went to Ethiopia as a Peace Corps executive in 1964 and has maintained a scholarly interest in that fascinating country and its people ever since. He is the author of Praeger's International Education: Its History and Promise for Today, Ethiopia: A Post-Cold War African State, and The Eisenhower Court and Civil Liberties.


"Vestal (emer., political science, Oklahoma State Univ., Stillwater) has written the first full-length narrative of Emperor Haile Selassie's many trips to the US and the warm, ecstatic reception the American public gave him. Written in a lively, engaging style, the book provides invaluable knowledge about Selassie's seemingly unending trips to the US."—Choice, August 1, 2011

"The Lion of Judah is a work of meticulous scholarship, and also deep affection, for the private life and times of Haile Selassie in the years of his greatest strength and in the twilight of his reign. Vestal offers information that is thoughtful, richly anecdotal, and a tribute to the value and power of narrative history. As a scholar of international law, former associate director of Peace Corps Ethiopia, and passionate advocate for democratic ideals, Vestal offers a important counterpoint to political histories that miss or misinterpret Ethiopia’s interaction with America and the New World. The level of detail is a wonderful contribution to understanding the man."—James C. McCann, Professor of History, Boston University, and author of People of the Plow: An Agricultural History of Ethopia, 1800-199

"An illuminating and engaging book ... With deftness, taste, and an acute understanding of Haile Selassie and his times, Vestal has written an engrossing and original study of how the Emperor of Ethiopia, in his dealings with the United States and in his travels to the New World, helped shape a positive image of Africa and Africans held by many Americans—an image that was significant in the election of the first African—American U.S. President. His narrative is filled with telling details and an appreciation of the role a rich cast of characters, both Ethiopian and American, played in forging the ties between the two countries that have endured to this day."—Getatchew Haile, Regents Professor Emeritus of Medieval Studies, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota; MacArthur Fellow

"An important and exciting tale ably told. ... Theodore Vestal seeks to unravel the complex and ever-changing relationship between an astute and long-reigning Ethiopian monarch adept at personal diplomacy and a succession of American Presidents with little more than a peripheral interest in Africa. Vestal’s story takes us through many notable historic events, including the 'Wind of Change,' which led within little more than a year to the unexpected liberation of virtually the entire African continent; to the emergence of an independent Somali State, which was followed by the dramatic advent of the Soviet Union (and Cuba) on the Horn of Africa; and to Watergate, a completely unpredictable incident which resulted in a great Super Power’s almost total diplomatic paralysis."—Richard Pankhurst, Professor, Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University

"A detailed, comprehensive, painstakingly researched diplomatic history of two seemingly irreconcilable nations ... Vestal's contribution is a must-read by the present generation of Ethiopians and Americans, not only for the interest of the subject matter, but most of all for the author's refreshing honesty and courage, clarity of presentation and his sense of a balance, and objectivity.” —Aklilu Habte, President Emeritus of Haile Selassie I University
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