Anthony Rodney, Walter

Rodney, Walter, 1942–1980, Scholar and revolutionary, b. Georgetown, British Guiana. Ph.D. School of African and Oriental Studies, 1966. A Pan-Africanist scholar and activist, Rodney was a globally acclaimed author of multiple scholarly books and numerous academic articles that documented the effects of slavery and imperialism in Africa and the Caribbean. He was born in Georgetown, the capital of then-British Guiana. He grew up during the country's movement against colonialism and his father was a member of the Marxist-oriented People's Progressive Party. Rodney earned a doctorate in African History in 1966 at the age of 24 years old. He taught at the University of Dar es Salaam from 1966 to 1967 and again from 1969 to 1974.

Rodney's most influential book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972), examined the historical development of nations and remains a guidepost for scholars who aim to analyze capitalist societies and the rise of inequality. According to scholar and activist Bill Fletcher Jr., "It is difficult to overstate the importance and impact of the 1972 publication of Walter Rodney's How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. In this major contribution, Rodney reaffirmed the centrality and relevance of Africa in world history; the impact of the rape of Africa in the development and expansion of European and Euro-American capitalism; and the challenges that awaited the post-colonial world." Throughout his academic career, Rodney claimed that developing countries were successors to uneven development and ethnic imbalance, including continued forms of oppression from developed capitalist countries and their own local leaders.

Rodney was involved in revolutionary politics in Jamaica, Tanzania, and Guyana. He helped form the Working People's Alliance (WPA) and was a frequent public speaker on issues related to African and Caribbean history. He lectured throughout North America and Europe. In 1974, Rodney returned to Guyana to accept an appointment as Professor of African History at the University of Guyana, but the government of Forbes Burnham, then-Prime Minister of Guyana, rescinded the position. Between 1974–1979, Rodney becamee a leading figure in the resistance movement against the People's National Congress (PNC) government.

Rodney was assassinated on June 13, 1980. More than four decades after his death, in 2021, Guyana's National Assembly accepted the findings of a major investigative inquiry into the assassination. According to the National Security Archive at The George Washington University, the Commission of Inquiry (COI) concluded that the government of Forbes Burnham had organized the murder.

Rodney's papers are archived at the University of Atlanta’s Woodruff Center. There is also a Walter A. Rodney Foundation in Atlanta.

See R. C. Lewis, Walter Rodney: 1968 Revisited (2000); A. Gibbons, The Legacy of Walter Rodney in Guyana and the Caribbean (2010); C. Chung, Walter A. Rodney: A Promise of Revolution (2012); S. M. Markle, A Motorcycle on Hell Run: Tanzania, Black Power, and the Uncertain Future of Pan-Africanism, 1964–1974 (2017); A. Getachew, Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination (2019); L. Zeilig, A Revolutionary for Our Time: The Walter Rodney Story (2022); D. Featherstone et al., ed. Revolutionary Lives of the Red and Black Atlantic since 1917 (2022).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: African History: Biographies