Local News

July 5, 2017

Marcus Garvey Scholar Robert Hill with Honorary Degree

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Written by: Reggie Hales

Toronto, Canada – Jeanette Chambers, Hartford-based attorney specializing in immigration, joined dignitaries from across the nation and around the world in Toronto recently when the University of Toronto bestowed an Honorary Doctorate on Marcus Garvey scholar Robert Hill.Attorney Chambers is the daughter of the late Alfred Chambers, one of the founding fathers of Hartford’s West Indian community. Dr. Hill drew a large West Indian crowd from Hartford when he spoke at Eastern Connecticut State University in February of 2016.

Hartford-based Attorney Jeanette Chambers, with Marcus Garvey Scholar Robert Hill and Dr. Patricia Rodney, wife of the late Guyanese Scholar Dr. Walter Rodney, at a reception in Robert Hill’s honor at the University of Toronto, which bestowed an honorary degree on Hill.

Family and friends from across the nation were on hand to witness the momentous occasion, a two-day event that showcased an elegant luncheon, convocation and fabulous reception, featuring exquisite dining and beautiful music. Among the dignitaries was Dr. Patricia Rodney, wife of the late Dr.Walter Rodney, Hill’s close friend. Rodney, the brilliant Guyanese historian scholar and activist, was killed by an assassin because of his advocacy for the working class in Guyana.

“I first met Bobby in 1968 in Jamaica,” said Dr. Rodney. “At that time, I never imagined that he would play such a major role in critical periods of my life. When Walter was denied re-entry into Jamaica in October 1968, it was Bobby who brought a letter from Walter, which informed us about the cowardly action of the Shearer administration. Bobby also played a key role in ensuring that I retrieved Walter’s papers, which were being used and published without permission. His commitment to our family are too many to mention. His friendship has lasted for almost 50 years, and he is committed to scholarship and mentoring a new generation of historians,” said Dr. Rodney.

After an elaborate reception, complete with exotic food and African/Cuban music, Hill told local representatives that he “misses the West Indian community in Hartford, especially, Mommy, Mollie Bennett and her family.” He said he hopes the community will invite him to come back again.

Hill, who graduated from the University of Toronto 50 years ago, was honored for his lifelong historical research on Black radicalism. Dr. Alissa Trotz, associate professor of Caribbean Studies and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto’s New College, said Hill’s colleagues described him as “an archaeologist of black memory,’ an outstanding and rigorous scholar whose “indefatigable labours in meticulously constituting archives that truly have no rival.” She described Hill as “a sleuth in the service of justice, the highest truth…who has profoundly reshaped our understanding of one of the most significant movements of the twentieth century, and who “is unquestionably seen as ‘the world’s leading authority on the transnational influence and intellectual currents of Pan-Africanism.”

Trotz continued, “There is an African proverb that says until the lions have their own storyteller, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. Robert Hill is that storyteller. A captivating speaker and unfailingly generous mentor to countless students, he has tirelessly built an archival infrastructure that will serve generations to come, enabling us to multiply the stories that were not meant to be told. This is what intellectual fellowship looks like. This is public intellectual work at its finest. This is a man whose intellectual acumen, political commitment and unparalleled, radical generosity are gift and example to us all.”

University of Toronto Chancellor Michael Wilson agreed: “Professor Robert Hill a towering figure in the study of Afro-American and Caribbean History. He is the world’s preeminent scholar of Marcus Garvey and his movement, and the literary executor of the Estate of C.L.R. James. His entire life as well as his landmark scholarship is a model for all of us. Professor Hill, let me take this opportunity, on behalf of the University of Toronto community, to thank you for the inspiration you have provided, in a world that needs it so much.

About the Author

Reggie Hales


by Reggie Hales

by Reggie Hales



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