Walter Rodney Close, E6

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Walter Anthony Rodney (March 23, 1942 – June 13, 1980) was a prominent Pan-Africanist, Marxist historian and political activist who is credited with revolutionising the way slavery was discussed as an academic issue. Born into a working-class Guyanese family, he overcame his disadvantaged background to attended university in 1960 and was awarded a first class honours degree in History in 1963 before coming to London to attend the School of Oriental and African Studies for his PhD. His dissertation, which focused on the slave trade on the Upper Guinea Coast was widely acclaimed for its originality in challenging the conventional wisdom on the topic. He returned to the West Indies where he argued for socialism as the only way that Africa could break free from its imperial past. His rhetoric touched many working-class listeners but increasing drew the ire of the ruling middle-class. On October 15, 1968, the Jamaican government banned Rodney from the country and he was dismissed from his teaching post at the University of the West Indies. Student protests led to more widespread disorder which became known as the Rodney Riots. Six people died in the roubles and millions of dollars of damage was caused. He returned to Tanzania, where he had previously held a post as a lecturer, and continued to publish books including How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Returning to his homeland he founded the Working People’s Alliance, a party that provided the most effective and credible opposition to the PNC government. He declared the WPA aims to “create political consciousness, replacing ethnic politics with revolutionary organisations based on class solidarity”. On June 13, 1980, he was killed in Georgetown,  by a car bomb. His killers were never caught. He is honoured here having spent time in the Newham while studying and developing his views on the often influence of Europe throughout Africa’s history.

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