Black History Month Post: Who Was Walter Rodney?


The People United Will Never Be Defeated!           

Dr. Walter Rodney was an intellectual guerrilla. He was born on March 23, 1942 and earned a Ph.D. in African History from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He was an expert on the slave trade and its impact on the development of capitalism in the world. Rodney viewed the capitalist system as a form of oppression against people of African descent.  

He taught African History and economic development at major colleges and universities in North America and the Caribbean.    

In 1968, Walter Rodney was banned from Jamaica for comments he made at a Black Writer’s Conference in Canada, revealing his belief that civil disobedience was an effective political weapon. His students protested his ban and rioted, resulting in several people losing their lives and millions of dollars in property damage in Kingston, Jamaica.  

In spite of public protest, the Jamaican ban against him stood.

Rodney traveled to Tanzania and pushed for socialism there, but he was disappointed. Nevertheless, Rodney became a loud voice on the world stage fighting for the rights of poor people exploited by capitalism.

In 1974, Walter Rodney was offered a professorship in Guyana. However, the Guyana government blocked Rodney’s appointment because he was viewed as a radical who could destabilize the fledging country.

With rejection from his own government, Rodney turned his attention to community organizing and politics in Guyana.

Rodney formed the Working People’s Alliance (WPA). 

He was a radical revolutionary thinker with the power to impact the thinking of the masses. And that’s what made him dangerous and a power that could not be ignored.

Walter Rodney was a force that could not be oppressed.

Not then. Not now.

In 1979, Rodney was arrested and charged with burning down two government buildings in Guyana. Rodney claimed to be innocent. In 1980, he ran for President in the Guyanese general elections while awaiting trial. In spite of the charges leveled against him by the government, it appeared Rodney would win the election.

On Friday, June 13, 1980 he died when a walkie-talkie bomb he was holding in a parked car exploded in Georgetown, Guyana.

It is believed he was assassinated.

More than 35,000 people marched in his funeral procession in the streets of Guyana. Rodney was beloved by his people. His intellectual impact in academic circles is still potent.

The legacy of the late Walter Rodney lives on.

Check out The Fifth Letter to see how his spirit drives action in my political thriller.

A student of Mahatma Ghadhi, he wanted a revolution in the human spirit.

Peace among all races.

I reviewed his personal papers at Atlanta University. One of his favorite Ghadhi quotes was: “I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.”

These are the words of a man known worldwide to love peace. This writer believes Walter Rodney was a peace-loving man who was not afraid of violence.

Walter Rodney was not a coward.

He was working on a children’s book series to promote healthy relationships among all people when he died, having completed the Indian and African books.

So now you know the source of the quote on the t-shirts worn by many protestors today around the world.

“The people united will never be defeated” is a Walter Rodney quote.

His death is still under investigation.  Yes, over thirty years after his death.  A hearing by a Commission of Inquiry heard testimony from his brother, the lone eye witness to his death on Friday, January 30, 2015.  That hearing was adjourned until February due to poor reception of the hearings over the Internet.

Walter Rodney’s influence in the world lives on.

He had no fear.

 

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