The life of the great Guyanese scholar and revolutionary Walter Rodney burned with a rare intensity. The son of working class parents, Rodney showed great academic promise and was awarded scholarships to the University of the West Indies in Jamaica and the School of African and Oriental Studies in London. He received his PhD from the latter at the age of twenty-four, and his thesis was published as A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, now a classic of African history. His most famous work, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, is a mainstay of radical literature and anticipated the influential world systems theory of Immanuel Wallerstein.
Not content merely to study the world, Rodney turned to revolutionary politics in Jamaica, Tanzania, and in Guyana. In his homeland, he helped form the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) and was a consistent voice for the oppressed and exploited. As Rodney became more popular , the threat of his revolutionary message stirred fears among the powerful in Guyana and throughout the Caribbean, and he was assassinated in 1980.
This book presents a moving and insightful portrait of Rodney through the words of academics, writers, artists, and political activists who knew him intimately or felt his influence. These informal recollections and reflections demonstrate why Rodney is such a widely admired figure throughout the world, especially in poor countries and among oppressed peoples everywhere.
Contributors include Robert “Bobby” Moore, Abyssinian Carto, Brenda Do Harris, Robert Hill, Amiri Baraka, Leith Mullings, Issa G. Shivji, Clive Y. Thomas, and Rupert Roopnaraine.
The personal recollections in this book leave no doubt as to the impact that Walter Rodney had on each individual, while they also reveal much of interest about each writer. Taken together they remind us of what a seminal historical figure Rodney was, and how his reading of history and his practice as an activist still resonate today.
Walter Rodney: Revolutionary and Scholar
The interviews of these men and women who knew, studied with, and worked with Rodney provide a richly layered picture of the man, the scholar, the leader, and time in which he lived. Their recollections allow us to feel the energy and excitement as they collectively brought Caribbean history out from the shadows of British imperial history. You also feel the tension, anxiety and fear as the PNC government turned on its citizens. They help us appreciate that 1968 was as critical a time in Jamaica and the Caribbean as it was in Paris and Mexico City. Equally important, their stories convey the tremendous loss to them individually and to the peoples of Guyana, the Caribbean, and Africa when Rodney was so brutally killed. Chung has made Rodney accessible to a new generation of students. I hope they will be inspired to follow in Rodney’s intellectual and activist footsteps.
Walter A. Rodney: A Promise of Revolution is a compelling and intimate portrait of the life and legacy of Dr. Walter Rodney. Through the medium of oral history, Chung’s book provides insightful recollections on his experiences in England, Jamaica, Tanzania, the USA and Guyana from a diverse set of voices. The stories found here are honest, vivid and detailed—a wonderful example of the power of memory and the scale and scope of Rodney’s intellectual and political impact, past and present.