Another Infamous Riot! (Black Country Bans Black Power Professor, Sparking Rodney Riots)

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A Brief History

On October 16, 1968, the island country of Jamaica, a majority Black African heritage nation (92%+ African heritage population) experienced riots because a Black Guyanese professor, Dr. Walter Anthony Rodney, was banned from returning to Jamaica to teach at the University of the West Indies.  An African history scholar, Rodney was a leading proponent of the Black Power movement that had taken hold in the United States and other countries.  The Jamaican government that banned Dr. Rodney was led by Prime Minister Hugh Shearer, himself of African descent.  Riots in the capital city of Kingston ensued!

Digging Deeper

(The so called “Rodney Riots” thus have become another of the many instances of riots chronicled on this website, which you can access by clicking on this link.)

Before you jump to any conclusions about the Afro-Jamaican government being somehow anti-Black, the reason for the governmental disapproval of Professor Rodney’s teachings was because Rodney was somewhat of a socialist that had been preaching and teaching against the middle class of the Caribbean nations, which of course posed a threat to the status quo of the property owners in Jamaica.  The riots started out as a protest demonstration and march by students from the University of the West Indies who went from the campus to march to the residence of the Prime Minister and the national capitol.  As throngs of citizens joined the protest, violence broke out and several millions of dollars worth of property damage was inflicted on Kingston and several people lost their lives, though exact figures are elusive.

At the same time that the United States was undergoing a cultural upheaval regarding the rights and social status of African Americans, the Caribbean movement for Black rights was also taking place. While Jamaica did not see major social upheaval, the movement did inspire the Black Power Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago in 1970.

Sadly, more than 50 years later (in the current year of 2020), the United States is also experiencing racial discord that has led to many riots across the United States in 2020, with the death of African Americans during confrontations with the police providing the impetus for the protests that have often turned into violent events that resulted in riots leaving property damaged, buildings burned, and even people dead.  Are violent riots a worthwhile method of expressing social unrest?  You tell us!

Question for students (and subscribers): Is violence ever a legitimate form of social change? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Chung, Clairmont. Walter Rodney: A Promise of Revolution. Monthly Review Press, 2012.

Rodney, Walter. Walter Rodney Speaks: The Making of an African Intellectual. Africa World Press, 1990.

The featured image in this article, a map of Jamaica with highlight on Kingston, has been released into the public domain worldwide by the copyright holder of this work.


About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.