The Life and Times of Walter Rodney

Who is Walter Rodney

Walter RodneyEvery reader of Caribbean history, business and politics should know about Walter Anthony Rodney. Certainly, readers of The should know that Rodney was an influential, powerful, controversial, yet unifying force, and one who challenged the status quo in his country and his world. Sadly however, on June 13, 1980 at 38 years old, Walter Rodney, was reportedly assassinated in a mysterious car bomb explosion which up to this day has left the two Guyanese political parties casting blame, as to fault and intent.

Such an unimaginable tragedy has certainly impacted the lives of his widow Dr Patricia Rodney and their children Shaka, Kanini and Ash. But who is Walter Rodney and why did he impact Guyana and the Caribbean? Described as a political activist, scholar and primarily as a historian, Dr. Walter Rodney earned a PhD in African History in 1966 at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, England, at the age of 24.

Wikipedia describes him as being ‘Born into a working-class family, Walter Anthony Rodney was a very bright student, attending Queen's College in Guyana, where he became a champion debater and athlete.’ They continue, ‘…and then attending university on a scholarship at the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) in Jamaica, graduating in 1963 with a first-class degree in History, thereby winning the Faculty of Arts prize.’

Kaiter News Online in their 2012 remembrance of Walter Rodney, titled “Guyana remembers ‘intellectual rebel’ Walter Rodney” had this to say about him.

Rodney had returned to Guyana in 1974 from Tanzania and was supposed to take a position as a professor at the University of Guyana. According to reports, the government of the day, the People’s National Congress, headed by the late Forbes Burnham, prevented his appointment. He [Rodney] subsequently became increasingly active in politics, forming the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), against the PNC government, and the year before his assassination was arrested and charged with arson after two government offices were burned.

As you may have realized, Walter Rodney was no ordinary young man. Very passionate and deliberate in his actions, he was well intentioned and focused from an early age.

His Message and Impact Today

Rodney is described as a colourful, humorous man who was fun-loving, yet still driven and fully committed to his country and the Caribbean. In 2005, 25 years after his death, there were celebrations in his memory and commitment/dedication to carry on his message. Writing about the celebrations, The University of Texas speaks of the huge outpouring of love and celebrations held in his name. They write;

The Commemoration was not about Rodney’s death but a celebration of his principled politics, philosophy of human and self emancipation,  leadership by example and consistent practice and Rodney’s life –long commitment to the masses.

Rodney worked with the poor and committed his life to making poverty a thing of the past for men, women and children. Rodney was very concerned with exploitation and oppression and up to today his life continues to inspire social change.

howeurope-rodneyEven now, people from all over the Caribbean, North America, Europe, and Africa, who worked or knew him well, are still influenced by his writing. Today in Guyana there is a public park and a memorial plaque around the spot in Guyana where Rodney died, but his message and work will forever remain with us.

By TCC Staff

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