Wednesday, February 4, 2015

BHM: Walter Rodney


"It is absolutely necessary to determine whether the standard of living in a given industrialized country is a product of its own internal resources or whether it stems from exploiting other countries.”

Dr. Walter Rodney was born in Georgetown, Guyana on March 23, 1942. His was a working class family-his father was a tailor and his mother a seamstress. After attending primary school, he won an open exhibition scholarship to attend Queens College as one of the early working-class beneficiaries of concessions made in the filed of education by the ruling class in Guyana to the new nationalism that gripped the country in the early 1950s.

His doctoral research on slavery on the Upper Guinea Coast was the result of long meticulous work on the records of Portuguese merchants both in England and in Portugal. In 1970, his Ph.D dissertation was published by Oxford University Press under the title, A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545-1800. Walter took up his first teaching appointment in Tanzania before returning to his alma mater, the University of the West Indies, in 1968. This was a period of great political activity in the Caribbean as the countries begun their post colonial journey. But it was the Black Power Movement that caught Walter's imagination.

By the summer of 1968 Rodney's "groundings with the working poor of Jamaica had begun to attract the attention of the government. So, when he attended a Black Writers' Conference in Montreal, Canada, in October 1968, the Hugh Shearer-led Jamaican Labor Party Government banned him from re-entering the country. This action sparked widespread riots and revolts in Kingston in which several people were killed and injured by the police and security forces, and millions of dollars worth of property destroyed.. Rodney's encounters with the Rastafarians were published in a pamphlet entitled "Grounding with My Brothers," that became a bible for the Caribbean Black Power Movement.

Having been expelled from Jamaica, Walter returned to Tanzania after a short stay in Cuba. It was from partly from these activities that his second major work, and his best known --How Europe Underdeveloped Africa - emerged. It was published by Bogle-L'Ouverture, in London, in conjunction with Tanzanian Publishing House in 1972.

In 1974, Walter returned to Guyana to take up an appointment as Professor of History at the University of Guyana, but the government rescinded the appointment. But Rodney remained in Guyana, joined the newly formed political group, the Working People's Alliance.

From that period up to the time of his murder, he was constantly persecuted and harassed and at least on one occasion, an attempt was made to kill him. Finally, on the evening of June 13, 1980, he was assassinated by a bomb in the middle of Georgetown.

Below is a short documentary based off of an interview with Walter Rodney


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