Little Bits of History

October 16

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 16, 2017

1968: The Rodney riots begin. Walter Rodney was born into a working class family in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1942. He was a good student and after attending Queen’s College, he went on to the University College of the West Indies in Jamaica. He graduated in 1963 with a History degree and won the Faculty of Arts prize. He earned a PhD in African History in 1966 at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London at the age of 24 with his dissertation on the slave trade on the Upper Guinea Coast. A History of the Upper Guinea Coast 1545-1800 was published in the Oxford University Press in 1970 and was well received.

Rodney traveled and became well known internationally as both an activist and a scholar as well as a brilliant orator. He first taught at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania from 1966-67 and then later moved to Jamaica where he taught at his alma mater. He was vocal in his disdain for the middle class and the role they played in the post-independence era in the Caribbean. He believed socialism offered a better system than capitalism and advocated for the former. He attended a black writers’ conference in Montreal, Canada and in his absence he was banned from returning to Jamaica. His socialist ties were cited along with his visits to Cuba and the USSR.

The banning took place on October 15 and when the people of Kingston learned of it, they were outraged and took to the streets on this day. The riots began with the students of UWI, Mona (where Rodney taught) under the leadership of the Guild of Undergraduates. They closed down the campus and then began to march toward the prime minister’s house. They moved on toward the parliament building in Kingston. On the way, many more people joined and the march became violent. The march spread across the city and ended with several people dead and millions of dollars in property damages.

The riots increased political awareness even outside Jamaica and spread across the Caribbean but held a special place in the Rastafarian sector of Jamaica. In 1969, Rodney returned to the University of Dar es Salaam and was a Professor of History there until 1974. He remained a voice for the Caribbean and North American Black Power movement. In 1974 he returned to Guyana after accepting a position at the University of Guyana, but the government prevented his appointment. Rodney became ever more active in politics and found the Working People’s Alliance which posed a threat to the established government of Guyana. In 1980 he was killed by a bomb placed in his car. He was 38. It was widely believed, although unproven, the bombing was set up by then President Linden Burnham.

If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. – John F. Kennedy

If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals. – J. K. Rowling

Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude. – Alexis de Tocqueville

We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others. – Will Rogers




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