The 1920s and 1930s were an active and exciting time for the social movements that sought to highlight the importance of African heritage in the world. Among the most significant developments were the government of Ethiopian emperor Haile Salassie I and Marcus Mosiah Garvey’s ideas of “Africa for Africans” and his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), which also inspired the Rastafarian movement begun by Leonard Percival Howell in Jamaica.

Pastor Robert Athlyi Rogers emerged from this evolution of thought and philosophy about the black race. He was born on the island of Anguilla on May 6, 1891, and immigrated to the United States as a youth. Jamaican leader Marcus Mosiah Garvey had also immigrated to the United States in 1916 and established a chapter of UNIA there. In 1922, Rogers attended a UNIA meeting in Newark and was very impressed with Garvey’s discourse, to the point of declaring him an “apostle of God.”

Rogers’ admiration for Garvey was such that he dedicated the seventh chapter of his masterwork, The Holy Piby, to Garvey. This volume, divided into four parts, was a response to the western Holy Bible, which the author described as of “white origin.” To Rogers, the Promised Land for Africans was Ethiopia. Considered “the black man’s Bible,” The Holy Piby was the first book published by an Anguilla writer in the 20th century and was one of the foundational texts of Rastafarianism. It came out in New Jersey in 1924. This was after the author wrote Negro Map of Life and founded the United Home and Bank of the Negroes in 1917.

During that era, Pastor Rogers also traveled to numerous cities in the United States, the Caribbean and South America preaching what he called the “law of Ethiopian redemption and liberation.” In the city of Kimberly, South Africa, he established one of his religious organizations, which were known as Afro-Athlican Constructive Gaathly. The South African government attacked Rogers’ settlement in the region, however. Parts of Jamaica also halted publication of The Holy Piby. Charles Goodridge, one of the leaders of UNIA on the island, which was then a British colony, was imprisoned for spreading the doctrines of the religious text written by Rogers.

Pastor Robert Athlyi Rogers committed suicide on August 24, 1931, when he felt that his mission on earth had been completed. But as stated in chapter four of his spiritual manifesto, The Holy Piby, he left behind as a legacy the “salvation” of the Ethiopians.

Author: Alfredo Nieves Moreno
Published: December 16, 2011.

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