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Reigniting Walter Rodney’s Legacy for Today’s Black Lives Matter Movement

2:00 pm - 4:30 pm | 11 November 2020
Online | Free

This inaugural conference is co-hosted with the Centre for African Studies, University of Cambridge and supported by the Rodney family with an opening conference message.

As today’s generation seizes the reins of political, social and intellectual leadership, Walter Rodney’s legacy has never been more alive. In his calls for Black Power, he inspires protesters demanding an end to police brutality against black people today.

In his groundings, he calls upon the youth in the informal settlements of Africa, and Latin America to pick up the books that can inspire their struggle, and demands that academics leave their ivory towers to be in communion with the working people. In his magnum opus, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, he calls on academics and the general public more broadly to question the very basis of modernity. And in his own legacy as an activist, he taught us that we can stand up to demagogues and dictators that divide people for their own power by bringing communities together. This conference will reintroduce the current generation to Rodney’s prescient political and intellectual legacy.

In the second part of the conference, we will be joined by youth in Nigeria working with the Young African Leaders Forum, the Young Historian’s Project in the UK, which seeks to encourage young people of African and Caribbean heritage in Britain to take up history, and the United families and Friends Campaign, a coalition of people affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody.

Register to attend here

About the Speakers:

Professor Richard Drayton was born in Guyana and grew up in Barbados. He has lived in Britain since 2001 where he has taught at Cambridge and King’s College London. He is a board member of The Walter Rodney Programme@PET

Dr Ama Biney is a Pan-Africanist scholar-activist, with over 25 years teaching experience. She has taught courses in African and Caribbean history; the History of Black People in Britain and international relations in the UK and in Ghana. She is currently an independent scholar and in the Bikoist tradition writing what she likes. She is also a member of The Walter Rodney Programme@PET’s advisory board.

Dr David Johnson transferred from social anthropology to a history major at the University of Sussex after reading How Europe Underdeveloped Africa and attending a grounding session with Walter Rodney, in a black community bookshop in North London. He went on to complete a doctorate in African history at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and taught for three decades at the University of Calabar, Georgetown University and the City University of New York. He was a founder member of the UK Support Group of the Working People’s Alliance, a platform through which Walter Rodney, as well as other creative and courageous comrades, dared to imagine and pursue another world.

Dr Natasha Issa Shivji is the Director of the Institute for Research in Intellectual Histories of Africa in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Cambridge. She has previously taught in the History departments at the University of Dar es Salaam and the University of Dodoma on courses focusing on African political economy, the agrarian question in Africa and Indian Ocean World History on the East African Littoral. Walter Rodney’s work remained a central influence for her in both her teaching and in her own research as work that withstood the test of time and remained formidable in shaping the discourse of how we write our history understanding the material realities of underdevelopment and imperialism and yet within a framework that is emancipatory and audacious.

About the Moderators:

Mohammed Elnaiem is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Cambridge. A socialist activist, he has been involved in the cause for black liberation for years. He is inspired by Walter Rodney’s legacy as a scholar-activist, and is passionate about the cause for black liberation from a working class perspective.

Robert Cuffy is is a well-known revolutionary socialist in NYC, and an effective organizer for Black Liberation. He is a member of the DSA Afrosocialist Caucus, a leader of the NYC Fight for Our Lives Coalition (which is part of People’s Strike, a National coalition organized by Cooperation Jackson), and a founder of the Socialist Workers Alliance of Guyana. He is also a leader of the DSA Labor Branch.

Zara Brown is a recent Politics and Quantitative Methods University of Warwick graduate. Her academic and activist interests in Caribbean and pan-African history exposed her to Walter Rodney’s ideas, revolutionised her thinking, and inspired her to found Warwick’s Caribbean Culture Society, among other things. She currently works as a social researcher and continues to engage with youth activism. She is also a member of The Walter Rodney Programme@PET’s advisory board.


  1. Keynote (i) The Meaning of Walter Rodney

Prof Richard Drayton outlines the range, depth, breadth and contemporary importance of Rodney’s contribution to scholarship and activism.

Respondent: Dr Ama Biney

  1. Keynote (ii) Reclaiming the African Past and Present with Walter Rodney

Dr David Johnson shows why the ideas of this audacious youth left a legacy that still sends shock-waves inside and outside the academy.

Respondent: Dr Natasha Issa Shivji

  1. Q&A

Break 5 mins

  1. GROUNDINGS: Rodney’s Profound Impact Here & Now

Scholars and grass-roots activists share how Rodney’s profound influence on their historical consciousness and personal development inspires their current work.

Panel: This panel brings together The United Families & Friends Campaign [UFFC], Migrant Media [MM], Young Historians Project [YHP], Young African Leaders Forum (YALF). all working for a better world.

  1. Q&A
  2. Next Steps: The Way Forward – Speakers’ closing remarks.

You are welcome to email advance conference questions to

The conference is happening with support from the Walter Rodney Foundation and the Sociology Department at the University of Cambridge.

This event will be livestreamed, audience members can interact through youtube and facebook.

Header Image: An imagined conversation between Angela Y Davis and Walter Rodney by Illustrator Anastasya Eliseeva

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