10 Things To Know About Anti-Colonialist Walter Rodney, Whose Deportation Caused Jamaica’s Biggest Riots

Written by PK Krentsil
10 Things to know about anti-colonialist Walter Rodney, the scholar and activist whose deportation led to the 1968 Rodney Riots in Jamaica. Image credit: https://mronline.org/

June 13 will mark 40 years since Guyanese activist Walter Rodney was assassinated in a car bomb. Regarded as one of the most influential Caribbean thinkers, Rodney dedicated his life to improving conditions for the working class and the marginalized.

He is best known for his book, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa“, which examined Africa’s distorted development in the years following colonialism.

Here are 10 things to know about anti-colonialist Walter Rodney, whose deportation caused Jamaica’s biggest riots.

He was a scholar of African history

Rodney received his Ph.D. with honors in African history from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He wrote his thesis on the history of the Upper Guinea Coast

He wrote a book essential to understanding the state of postcolonial Africa

In 1972, Rodney wrote his magnum opus, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.” In it, he argues that the West’s exploitation of Africa during colonialism explains why the continent lagged behind the rest of the world in development. 

He combined his scholarship with activism

Rodney was politically active as a student in England and as a professor in Jamaica. In Jamaica, he spoke up for working-class citizens and Rastafarians, one of the most marginalized groups in the country. 

He was multilingual

He spoke English, Spanish, Portugese, French and Swahili

He was a husband and father

He and his wife Patricia have three children and three grandchildren. 

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He was expelled from Jamaica in 1968

The Jamaican government declared Rodney persona non grata in October 1968 due to his politics. This ban led to the Rodney Riots, a series of demonstrations by students and riots by working-class people in Kingston

He lived in Tanzania after being banned from Jamaica

From 1968 to 1974, he lived in Tanzania and other parts of Africa. While there, he wrote several works including “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.” 

He joined the Working People’s Alliance in 1974

Returning to his native Guyana, Rodney became heavily involved with the Working People’s Alliance, a democratic socialist political party. His teaching offer at the University of Guyana was rescinded. He would lead the group’s efforts against the People’s National Congress political party. With this platform, he brought a new class consciousness to the people. 

He was assassinated

On June 13, 1980, Rodney was murdered by a bomb in his car in Georgetown, Guyana. He was 38 years old. 

He received many posthumous honors for his work

Rodney has been recognized all over the world for his academic and political works. He was awarded the Order of Excellence of Guyana, the country’s highest honor, in 1993.