Walter Rodney

Walter Rodney

Walter Rodney (March 23, 1942 – June 13, 1980) was a prominent Guyanese historian and political figure.

Born to a working class family, Rodney was a bright student, attending Queen's College in Guyana and then attending university on a scholarship at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, graduating in 1963.


Walter Rodney earned his PhD in 1966 at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, England. His dissertation focused on the slave trade on the upper Guinea coast. The paper was published in 1970 under the name, "A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545-1800" and it was widely acclaimed for its originality in challenging the conventional wisdom on the area.

He travelled widely and became very well known around the world as an activist and scholar. He taught for a time in Tanzania after graduating, and later in Jamaica at his alma mater - UWI Mona. Rodney was sharply critical of the middle class for its role in the post-independence Caribbean. When the Jamaican government, led by prime minister Hugh Shearer, banned him, in October 1968, from ever returning to the country, because of his advocacy for the working poor in that country, riots broke out, eventually claiming the lives of several people and causing millions of dollars in damages. These riots, which started on October 16, 1968, are now known as the Rodney Riots, and they triggered an increase in political awareness across the Caribbean, especially among the Afrocentric Rastafarian sector of Jamaica, documented in his book, "The groundings with my brothers".

Rodney became a prominent Pan-Africanist, and was important in the Black Power movement in the Caribbean and North America. While living in Dar es Salaam he was influential in developing a new centre of African learning and discussion.

Academic Legacy

Rodney's most influential book was "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa", published in 1972. In it he described an Africa which had been consciously exploited by European imperialists, leading directly to the modern underdevelopment of most of the continent. The book became enormously influential as well as controversial.

Later years and assassination

In 1974 Rodney returned to Guyana from Tanzania. He was supposed to take a position as a professor at the University of Guyana but the government prevented his appointment. He became increasingly active in politics, forming the Working People's Alliance, against the PNC government. In 1979 he was arrested and charged with arson after two government offices were burned.

In 1980, Rodney was killed in a bomb explosion while running for office in Guyanese elections. The bomb was disguised as a two way radio transmitter and was planted by a CIA agent. The perpetrator secretly fled to Suriname thus avoiding prosecution. Rodney was survived by his wife, Pat, and three children.Fact|date=May 2008

Rodney's death was commemorated in a poem by his contemporary, the poet Martin Carter. The poem was entitled "For Walter Rodney".

In 2004, his widow, Patricia, and children donated his papers to the Robert L. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center. Since 2004, an annual Walter Rodney Symposium has been held each 23 March (Rodney's birthday) at the Atlanta University Center under the sponsorship of the Library and the Political Science Department of Clark Atlanta University, and under the patronage of the Rodney family.

External links

* [ Walter Rodney 25 Anniversary Commemoration Committee]
* [ Walter Rodney's Heresy] by Neil Roberts.
* [ Rodney biography]
* [ The "Walter Rodney Effect"]
* [ African History in the Service of the Black Liberation]
* [ George Jackson: Black Revolutionary]
* [ Street Speech]
* [ Walter Rodney and Pan Africanism Today by Horace Campbell]

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