Walter Rodney Recognized by the Guyana Government After 41 Years
African historian was assassinated in 1980 while his brother was charged with a plot to attack the administration of Forbes Burnham
Dr. Walter Rodney (1942-1980) was an acclaimed Pan-African historian and Marxist theoretician from the time he graduated from the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 1966.
Rodney soon took a faculty position at the University of Dar es Salaam in the East African state of Tanzania, which was a center during the 1960s and 1970s for the national liberation movements fighting across the continent against western imperialism.
The historian and political activist was assassinated on June 13, 1980 in the capital of his home country of Guyana, Georgetown, located in South America. Rodney had returned to Guyana in 1974 after being offered a faculty position at the university. Viewing his appointment as a potential threat to the People’s National Congress (PNC) government of then President Forbes Burnham, his job offer was revoked.
Rather than return to Tanzania, another African country or a university in North America, Rodney chose to stay in Guyana and delve into the internal politics of the country. By 1979, Rodney had transformed along with other veteran activists, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) as a political party in an effort to build unity among the working people of Guyana, who had been largely divided along ethnic lines between the slightly majority East Indian, Asian population pitted against the African descendants.
After the assassination of Rodney, the administration of Burnham claimed that the historian was attempting to plant a bomb outside a government building. His brother, Donald Rodney, was charged with being an accomplice in the alleged crime and sentenced to a term in prison.
Many people within the Left, Pan-African and progressive academic communities were in disbelief of the Guyana government’s explanation related to Rodney’s death. Blame was placed on the Burnham administration which continued to deny involvement.
Over four decades later, with the prodding of his widow, children and comrades within the WPA which remains active in Guyana politics, the government shifted its position recognizing Rodney as an historian while changing his death certificate to indicate he was murdered. The original death certificate stated that Rodney was “unemployed” although he was still working on academic projects by writing a History of the Guyanese Working People, which was published posthumously.
To start with A question: Let me begin by saying how much I loved Making the Black Jacobins. In some way, your book helps James’s readers to better understand certain questions that he left open-ended or that seemed a bit enigmatic.
For example, in the preface to the 1938 edition, when James writes, “Yet Toussaint did not make the revolution. It was the revolution that made Toussaint. And even that is not the whole truth.” Not the whole truth?
This sentence you quote is a typical James sentence. His sentences often double back on themselves like this. Another example is “Great men make history, but only such history as it is possible for them to make.” Here James echoes the introduction to Karl Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte about individuals making history, but only in certain circumstances. What James does is take the correlation of the individual and the circumstances to his biographical model. Yet James shows that we cannot understand history through the personality of one great man, despite the vivid pen portraits he draws of Toussaint Louverture. The twists in James’s preface signal that The Black Jacobins will mainly be a portrait of the revolution through Louverture’s personality, but that the evolving circumstances are also crucial to historical developments outlined by James.
What pissed me off real terribly is that Triny Daddy shat all over Ivan Van Sertima, a great! great! great! Guyanese of tremendous academic achievement right here in these pages and Ketchim who spoke well of Van Sertima in years go by sat silent and allowed Wifan/scat daddy dodoh to get away with such sacrilege!
I could not believe that and intended to get after ketchim for that soon after, but I forgot about completely, busy as I was.
no compilation like this even begins without Van Sertima right at the top. the only other west Indian who can be placed before Van Sertima as he is placed before them all is CLR James who indeed was one of the very greatest ever!
Ivan Van Sertima is a Top 100 AALBC.com Bestselling Author Making Our List 16 Times
Guyanese born Dr. Ivan Van Sertima (January 26, 1935 to May 25, 2009) is a literary critic, linguist, anthropologist, and writer. In 1977 he wrote They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America, for which he won the Clarence L. Holte Prize for excellence in literature and the humanities relating to the cultural heritage of Africa. He is the editor of the Journal of African Civilizations, and has edited numerous recent books including African Presence in Early America, Great African Thinkers, and Great Black Leaders: Ancient and Modern.
In They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America, which was reprinted over 20 times, Van Sertima defends this highly controversial thesis before the Smithsonian, which has recently published his address.
Check out the reading list compiled by Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, Dr. Yosef “Dr. Ben” Ben-Jochannan, and Dr. John Henrik Clarke.
Read Dr Van Sertima's Reading List
Dr. Van Sertima is also the editor of the Journal of African Civilizations
Some of the volumes of the Journal include:
Black Women in Antiquity
Journal of African Civilizations (Pilot)
Black Women in Antiquity
The African Presence in Early Europe
The African Presence in the Art of the Americas
Great Black Leaders: Ancient and Modern
Egypt: Child of Africa
The Golden Age of the Moor
African Presence in Early Europe
Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern
Black Women in Antiquity
It is the only historical journal in the English-speaking world which focuses on the heartland rather than on the periphery of African civilizations. It, therefore, removes the “primitive” from the center stage it has occupied in Eurocentric histories and anthropologies of the the African. The Journal of African Civilizations is dedicated to the celebration of black genius, to a revision of the role of the African in the world’s great civilizations, and to the contribution of Africa to the achievement of man in the arts and sciences. It emphasizes what blacks have given to the world, not what they have lost. —Ivan van Sertima
As an acclaimed poet, his work graces the pages of River and the Wall, 1953 and has been published in English and German. As an essayist, his major pieces were published in Talk That Talk, 1989, Future Directions for African and African American Content in the School Curriculum, 1986, Enigma of Values, 1979, and in Black Life and Culture in the United States, 1971.
Dr. Van Sertima has lectured at more than 100 universities in the United States and has also lectured in Canada, the Caribbean, South America and Europe. In 1991 Dr. Van Sertima defended his highly controversial thesis on the African presence in pre-Columbian America before the Smithsonian. In 1994 the Smithsonian published his address in Race, Discourse and the Origin of the Americas: A New World View of 1492.
He was also asked by Congress to appear before a Congressional Committee on July 7, 1987 to challenge the Columbus myth. This landmark presentation before Congress was illuminating and brilliantly presented in the name of all peoples of color across the world.