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Tony Martin
Tony Martin

Professor Tony Martin (1942-2013)

The death was recently announced of Professor Tony Martin. He was emeritus professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College for 34 years, where he was the founding member of the Africana Studies Department. A lecturer and prolific author of scholarly articles about Black History, primarily the Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, his written works and statements have generated intense debate and discussion, which continue beyond his life.

Cecil Gutzmore friend and academic associate of Tony gives an overview of his life and time

News of the passing of our Brother Tony Martin was unexpected and deeply disturbing. There was no prior notice of illness and the Biblical 'three score years and ten' (70/seventy years) is nothing these days. He had recently resettled in the Caribbean and appeared full of productive, committed energy.

Prof Martin and I were last in contact over an invitation to him to come to the UK to deliver the 2012 Third Annual Marcus Garvey Memorial Lecture at Birkbeck University of London, as well as talking over the possibility of a UK launch for his last major publication, Caribbean History: From Pre-Colonial Origins to the Present, published by Pearson in 2012. We last met in Senegal where he was a most distinguished guest and plenary presenter at a gatherings of Afrikan Intellectuals organised by President Wade.

When he joined the Ancestors Tony Martin was Professor Emeritus of Afrikan Studies at Wellesley College, Amhurst University, Massachusetts USA where as a long-established Professor he triumphed in an existential attack upon his person and reputation by rabid Zionists determined to silence him on the major role of the Jewish people ('some Jews’ only, they say) in the Atlantic enslavement and genocide of Afrikans. Prof Martin documented the episode in his book The Jewish Onslaught: Dispatches from the Wellesley Battlefront, published by The Majority Press - his own exemplary Afrikan, Garveyite self-help publishing house - in 1993. He taught at Wellesley from 1973 to 2007.

Prof Martin was part of the UK Afrikan community: as a child of the post-World War II/'Empire Windrush' Caribbean labour migration to the UK where his formal education was completed. After that he took what the - under-researched- next step for many Caribbean UK migrants, and beat a path to the United States of Amerikkka, with its known opportunities for able, aspiring Caribbean folk. Close family members of his remain domiciled in the UK.

A committed Garveyite and Pan-Afrikanist, Prof Martin was peerlessly rigorous in his research and writing on the contribution of these important subjects in the experience of the Afrikan nation. Tony Martin qualified as a lawyer before switching fields and making his name with the publication of his doctoral thesis that appeared as Race First: The Ideological and Organisational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) through The Greenwood Press, in 1976. With this book Tony Martin contributed massively to the rescue of Marcus Garvey's reputation and the record of his achievement from politically backward and racially disparaging academics like David Cronon. His Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association, that appeared in 1955. Tony’s work was also seriously influential against the perspectives of the able but non- (even subtly anti-) Garveyite Jamaican scholar Professor Robert A. Hill. Hill must be given credit for applying his own high level research skills and practices to the valuable objective of pulling together into one place - the Marcus Garvey Centre in California - and publishing them in an appropriately monumental multi-volume work, The Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, California University Press since 1983 - continuing. Another key contributor to positive Garvey studies is Professor Emeritus Rupert Lewis who, with his genuinely scholarly wife, Maureen Warner-Lewis, and working out of both the University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica and the exciting project Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey with its journal, 76 King Street has done much to explicate and make available Garvey’s Jamaican years as well as his massive role in Cuba.

Before his Wellesley period, Prof Martin taught at the University of Michigan-Flint, the Cipriani Labour College (Trinidad), and St. Mary's College (Trinidad). He has been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, Brandeis University, Brown University, and The Colorado College. He also spent a year as an honorary research fellow at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad. Professor Martin has singly authored, compiled or edited some 14 books. Race First aside – and everyone should read it in homage to Tony Martin, Ancestor, I greatly appreciated the typically scholarly and beautifully judicious works that is his excellent biography of the first wife of Marcus Garvey, entitled Amy Ashwood Garvey: Pan-Africanist, Feminist and Mrs. Marcus Garvey No. 1, Or, A Tale of Two Amies (2007). I also greatly respect other parts of Tony’s wide-ranging output and have a special affection for Literary Garveyism: Garvey, Black Arts and the Harlem Renaissance (1983) which explored revealingly that key terrain and moment in Afrikan-Amerkkkan experience.

Professor Tony Martin, the lawyer, scholar-historian, Pan-Afrikan activist and family man will be sorely missed. He will be fondly and gratefully remembered.

Cecil Gutzmore
Cecil Gutzmore is a long-standing associate of Caribbean Labour Solidarity