Walter Rodney was a father, a husband, a son, a brother; received open exhibition scholarship to Queen’s College where he graduated with honors; a first class honors graduate of the University of the West Indies; obtained his doctoral degree at the age of 24 from the School of African and Oriental Studies; his thesis was a comprehensive History of the Upper Guinea Coast 1545-1800; his seminal work – How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was penned when he was 30 years old.
What is sad about the passing of time is that over 25 years later, despite his numerous accolades, the death certificate of this profound and prolific writer, orator, historian, a lecturer, a professor, a leader of the opposition Working People’s Alliance, mover of the masses and revolutionary reads: Occupation, Unemployed; Cause of Death; Misadventure.
To commemorate, to celebrate, to give honor to his legacy, it is these things that have to change. Only then can we truly honor the memory and the sacrifice of this revolutionary man.
▪Asha T. Rodney, Attorney, Daughter
Greetings as we celebrate an outstanding change maker of our times. “Of our times” because the changes that his thought and activity, his praxis, have set in motion, are still vital if we are to talk of human development. So please do not stop at his industrious and gifted scholarship, but of how he committed himself to give back to the working people what in his conviction had in fact come from them. Leave this observance, determined to regard and remember him and honor him not as a deep scholar, the ICON that he surely is, but as a son and a sibling in his family, a life partner of his rare mate, a father of his offspring, a Comrade and Brother, and above all as an EXAMPLE, we can be confident of helping to make the world a better place. PEOPLE’S POWER, NO DICTATOR
▪Eusi Ruramai Kwayana, Co-Founder Working People’s Alliance, Guyana, Author
I first met Walter Rodney as a young unofficial student at his home in Georgetown where he gave free history lessons upon his return from Tanzania, and I can attest, like countless others, to his restless humanity and energy to serve the common people, whether in Africa, Guyana, the Caribbean, or the Americas. In one of his most moving statements (of particular relevance to intellectuals and academics) and one that defined his character he declared: “for our generation too is adding its quota to the frightening sterility of the society, Living off campus is a great boon, for it reduces my contact with rum-sipping, soul selling intellectuals of Mona…(University of the West Indies) Meanwhile I try to find some meaning among the mass of the population who are daily performing a miracle – they continue to survive!” Long live the spirit of Walter Rodney!
▪Nigel Westmaas, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, Hamilton College
Walter Rodney was a gentle revolutionary giant who deconstructed western historiography and turned it on its head to reveal Africa’s critical role in world development. His courage, insatiable curiosity, caring and keen intellect contextualized and revolutionized the thinking of generations of scholars. I am honored to say that he was my mentor and friend.
▪Shelby Lewis, Executive Director, The Lewis Foundation
For me, Walter was not a only scholar/activist, as many call him. He was a revolutionary activist who not only engaged in direct political organizing of the working people but who wrote even his most scholarly books in service of the struggle.
▪Andaiye, Red Thread
Walter Rodney’s legacy remains, not only for shaping consciousness but also for taking action. He bears out the call that Marcus Garvey sounded for combining thought and action, the one futile without the other. It is no easy task, since it sets in the path the most formidable opposition and the most seductive venialities. But he remains an inspiration for those in any of our societies, who, still insufficient in number, would seek to genuinely change conditions of inequality and injustice.
▪Joe Pereira, Deputy Principal, Mona Campus, University of the West Indies
Walter Rodney became best known for his masterpiece How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. This study was a manifesto of the generation. Indeed, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa epitomized the ‘Dar es Salaam School’. African initiative, choice and adaptation enshrined the clarion call for African independence. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa insisted that the world should be seen through the eyes of the oppressed themselves. Its purpose ‘…is to try to reach those who wish to explore further the nature of their exploitation rather than to satisfy the standards set by our oppressors and their spokesmen in the academic world.’ The key concept in the book is underdevelopment, the reproduction of unequal relationships on a national terrain. Underdevelopment makes sense only as a means for comparing levels of development. The force responsible for African poverty was colonialism.
▪Prof. M.H.H. Nkunya, Chief Academic Officer, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
He was among a small, but growing number of students and academics who would stress the importance and relevance of Caribbean and African history to our region in those early post-colonial days; a region that for many years continued to be dominated by curricula emphasizing European and imperial history, despite our political independence. Walter Rodney’s contribution was particularly significant in that he demonstrated the relevance of historical knowledge to the development process. He condemned the notion of reducing the study of our history to an intellectual exercise, and called upon historians of Africa and the African Diaspora to engage in a process of mobilization – to help rid our societies of the legacies of underdevelopment left by centuries of enslavement and colonization and to engage in the process of nation building and popular empowerment. This would require that historians not limit themselves to the halls of academia, but constructively engage themselves with the people of their respective societies; with the people who were in actuality the history-makers.
▪Swithin Wilmot, Head, Department of History, UWI Mona
SOAS is proud to claim Walter Rodney among its alumni and it was at SOAS that Walter was awarded his PHD. The Rodney Papers collection will be of interest to generations of scholars, as a record of a path-breaking radical scholar and deeply committed activist.
▪Colin Bundy, Director & Principal, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London
Walter Rodney was an intellectual giant and towering freedom fighter. We shall never forget his deep love for the people and vision for progressive struggle.
▪Dr. Cornel West, Princeton University