Friday Feature

Some Caribbean Islands celebrate Emancipation day on the 1st August. In the month of July in celebration of their emancipation from their colonial rulers, every week The Steve Biko Foundation will cover prominent activists that emerged from some of the Islands.

Walter Anthony Rodney- Guyana

Walter Anthony Rodney (23 March 1942 – 13 June 1980) was a prominent Guyanese historian, political activist and scholar, who was assassinated in Guyana in 1980.Born into a working-class family, Walter Rodney was a very bright student, attending Queen's College in the then British Guiana (now Guyana), where he became a champion debater and athlete, 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.
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. His dissertation, which focused on the slave trade on the Upper Guinea Coast, was published by the Oxford University Press in 1970 under the title A History of the Upper Guinea Coast 1545-1800 and was widely acclaimed for its originality in challenging the conventional wisdom on the topic.Rodney traveled widely and became very well known internationally as an activist, scholar and formidable orator. He taught at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania during the period 1966-67 and later in Jamaica at his alma mater UWI Mona. He was sharply critical of the middle class for its role in the post-independence Caribbean. He was also a strong critic of capitalism and argued for a socialist development template.
On 15 October 1968 the government of Jamaica, led by Prime Minister Hugh Shearer, declared Rodney persona non grata. The decision to ban him from ever returning to Jamaica because of his advocacy for the working poor in that country caused riots to break out, eventually claiming the lives of several people and causing millions of dollars in damages. These riots, which started on 16 October 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 (Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications, 1969).
In 1969, Rodney returned to the University of Dar es Salaam, where he served as a Professor of History until 1974.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.In 1974 Rodney returned to Guyana from Tanzania. He was due to take up a position as a professor at the University of Guyana but the government prevented his appointment. He became increasingly active in politics, founding the Working People's Alliance, a party that provided the most effective and credible opposition to the PNC government. In 1979 he was arrested and charged with arson after two government offices were burned.On 13 June 1980, Walter Rodney was killed, at the age of thirty-eight, by a bomb in his car, a month after returning from the independence celebrations in Zimbabwe and during a period of intense political activism. He was survived by his wife, Pat, and three children. His brother, Donald Rodney, who was injured in the explosion, said that a sergeant in the Guyana Defence Force named Gregory Smith had given Walter the bomb that killed him. After the killing, Smith fled to French Guiana, where he died in 2002.
It was, and is still, widely believed - although not proved - that the assassination was set-up by then President Linden Forbes Burnham. Rodney's idea, that the various ethnic groups who were historically disenfranchised by the ruling colonial class should work together, was in conflict with Burnham's presidential opinions.In early 2015 a Commission of Inquiry (COI) was held during which a new witness, Holland Gregory Yearwood, came forward claiming to be a longstanding friend of Rodney and a former member of the WPA. He testified that Rodney might have had a hand in his own demise, having presented detonators to Yearwood weeks prior to the explosion asking for assistance in assembling a bomb.
"Rodney's most influential book was his magnum opus, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, published in 1972. In it he described an Africa that 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: it was groundbreaking in that it was among the first to bring a new perspective to the question of underdevelopment in Africa. Rodney's analysis went far beyond the previously accepted approach in the study of Third World underdevelopment."Instead of being interested primarily in the inter-relations of African trade and politics, as many of us were at that time, Walter Rodney focused his attention on the agricultural basis of African communities, on the productive forces within them and on the processes of social differentiation. As a result, his research raised a whole set of fresh questions concerning the nature of African social institutions on the Upper Guinea coast in the sixteenth century and of the impact of the Atlantic slave trade. In doing so, he helped to open up a new dimension. Almost immediately he stimulated much further writing and research on West Africa, and he initiated a debate, which still continues and now extends across the whole range of African history.
Though Rodney lived with constant police harassment and frequent threats against his life he nonetheless managed to complete four books in the last year of his life: An academic work: A History of the Guyanese Working People, 1881-1905; A political call to action; People’s Power, No Dictator, and two children’s books: Kofi Baadu Out of Africa and Lakshmi Out of India 
Quotes by Walter Rodney
"....an overall view of ancient African civilisation and ancient African cultures is required to expunge the myths about the African past, which linger in the mind of Black people everywhere. This is the main revolutionary function of African History in our hemisphere." -Walter Rodney

"Every African has a responsibility to understand the system and work towards its overthrow." - Walter Rodney in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

"If there is to be any proving of our humanity it must be by revolutionary means" - Walter Rodney in Groundings with my Brothers

http://www.walterrodneyfoundation.org/biography/

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