The Caribbean has lost an eminent scholar.
Dr. Tony Martin, who taught at the all-girls Wellesley College in Massachusetts for 34 years before returning to his native Trinidad & Tobago in 2007, succumbed to cancer last week. The Africana Studies professor was 70.
The eldest of three children, Martin attended St. Mary’s College in the twin-island republic before pursuing his first degree in Economics at the University of Hull, his Master’s and PhD at Michigan State University and a Law degree.
He taught at his alma mater and at Ciprani College in Trinidad & Tobago and at the University of Michigan-Flint before joining Wellesley. He also spent a year as an honorary research fellow at the University of the West Indies St. Augustine campus in T & T and was a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, Brandeis University, the Colorado College and Brown University.
Martin visited Toronto on several occasions to present lectures and reconnect with family members, including his cousin Ken Jeffers, a former City of Toronto access & diversity manager.
“Tony was last in Toronto about three years ago for my daughter’s birthday,” said Jeffers. “We grew up in Trinidad and he was extremely bright and well read.”
The historian was a prolific scholar of Marcus Garvey, who was the subject of his doctoral dissertation and nine of the 14 books he authored, compiled or edited.
“I’d like to be remembered for my Garvey work,” Martin, who has been the subject of controversy for years for his self-published book, The Jewish Onslaught, which documents the Jewish role in the Atlantic Slave Trade, once said in an interview.
Jeffers, who was actively involved in the civil rights movement while attending South Carolina State University, said he was surprised that Martin embraced Garveyism.
“Tony went to St. Mary’s which is Catholic, conservative and which attracted mainly light-skinned students at the time and I would often tease him about his choice of school,” said Jeffers. “However, I could not overlook the fact that he was an excellent student who would do very well.”
In addition to Canada, Martin lectured in many countries around the world. In 1990, he delivered the annual Du Bois-Padmore-Nkrumah Pan-African lectures in Ghana. In 2004, he was one of the principal speakers at the African Union-sponsored First Conference of Intellectuals of Africa & the Diaspora in Senegal.
Martin was among a group of activists, educators and journalists that travelled to Zimbabwe in 2002 on a Pan-African fact-finding trip to assess the controversial land reform program. They visited farms, spoke with leaders of the land reclamation bid and met for two hours with the country’s president, Robert Mugabe.
Former Share columnist and educator, Clem Marshall, was the only Canadian delegation member.
“It was obvious that Tony was very committed to African peoples,” said Marshall. “He was a deep thinker with a really sharp mind and he was also very sociable.”
Martin, who was divorced, is survived by his son, Shabaka.
BY RON FANFAIR