Walter Rodney

  • Guyana
  • Political

Dr. Walter Anthony Rodney was a prominent Guyanese historian, political activist, and preeminent scholar, who was assassinated in Guyana in 1980. He traveled widely and became very well known internationally as an activist, scholar, and formidable orator. He was sharply critical of the middle class for its role in the post-independence Caribbean. He was also a strong critic of capitalism and argued for a socialist development template.

On 15 October 1968 the government of Jamaica, led by prime minister Hugh Shearer, declared Rodney persona non grata. The decision to ban him from ever returning to Jamaica because of his advocacy for the working poor in that country caused riots to break out, eventually claiming the lives of several people and causing millions of dollars in damages. These riots, which started on 16 October 1968, are now known as the Rodney Riots, and they triggered an increase in political awareness across the Caribbean, especially among the Afrocentric Rastafarian sector of Jamaica.

Rodney became a prominent Pan-Africanist, and was important in the Black Power movement in the Caribbean and North America. While living in Dar es Salaam he was influential in developing a new center of African learning and discussion.

He became increasingly active in politics, founding the Working People’s Alliance, a party that provided the most effective and credible opposition to the PNC government. In 1979 he was arrested and charged with arson after two government offices were burned. On 13 June 1980, Walter Rodney at the age of 38 was killed by a bomb in his car, a month after returning from the independence celebrations in Zimbabwe and during a period of intense political activism.


  • Population
  • Capital
  • GDP (PPP)
  • February 23, 1970
  • Total Area
    214,970 km2 (85th)
  • Demonym
  • Government
    Unitary presidential republic


Walter Rodney deeply embedded himself in the conversation and study of slavery and colonial imperialism which should not be forgotten. His legacy is further encapsulated under the Working People’s Alliance that formed in Guyana that brought together all ethnic backgrounds in the region. My goal for the piece was to show his passion for the working poor and his great understanding of colonialism and imperialism that affects much of the world today.

  • Illustration by
    Trevor Davis