Born on Feb. 21, 1942, Dr. Tony Martin joined the ancestors at approximately 7 p.m. on Jan. 17. Martin was 70 years old when he made his ancestral transition at West Shore Medical Hospital in his place of birth, Trinidad and Tobago.
Martin was a tenured professor at Wellesley College and a founding member and chairperson of Wellesley’s Africana studies department. Martin also taught at the University of Michigan-Flint, the Cipriani Labour College and St. Mary’s College. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, Brandeis University, Brown University and Colorado College. In addition, Martin served as an honorary research fellow at the University of the West Indies.
A stalwart Garveyite and Pan-Africanist, Martin earned a degree in economics at the University of Hull in England and an M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Michigan State University. Moreover, he was a pre-eminent scholar and prolific author who wrote and edited about 14 books, mainly on Marcus Garvey, Pan-Africanism and African-Caribbean history.
In 1976, Martin published his classic work, “Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association.” His copious scholarship continued with the publication of “Marcus Garvey, Hero: A First Biography”; “Message to the People: The Course of African Philosophy”; “The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey”; “African Fundamentalism: A Literary and Cultural Anthology of Garvey’s Harlem Renaissance”; “Literary Garveyism: Garvey, Black Arts and the Harlem Renaissance”; “The Poetical Works of Marcus Garvey”; “Amy Ashwood Garvey: Pan-Africanist, Feminist” and “Mrs. Marcus Garvey No. 1: A Tale of Two Amies”; “The Pan- African Connection: From Slavery to Garvey and Beyond”; and “Caribbean History: From Pre-Colonial Origins to the Present,” which was published in 2012.
One of the last individuals to see and talk to Martin before his transition, professor Khafra Kambon of the University of the West Indies, stated: “The loss is more than a personal one, it is a collective loss. Our brother has left a legacy of phenomenal scholarship, particularly his works on Marcus Garvey, but there was still so much more to come, so much more that he was close to completing after years of the meticulous study with which he was associated, and brilliant drafts that were due for completion in 2013. There is unfinished work that others will have to finish.”
In reflecting on the scholarly contribution of his intellectual colleague and friend, journalist and historian Herb Boyd said, “No one could speak as poignantly and exhaustively on the life and legacy of Marcus Mosiah Garvey as Tony Martin. But Garvey wasn’t the only topic in which he excelled. He was generally an extremely versatile scholar with special insights on Pan-African thought and Black nationalism. Even so, it was his dedication to Garvey that will give a lasting prestige, and it’s a shame that his Literary Garveyism has not received the attention it deserves. And the same can be said for Tony Martin.”
However, in the 1990s, Martin was the recipient of unwarranted attention and encroachment due to his gainsaying against historical subreption. As an intellectual member of the Unity Nation scholar-warrior coterie, Martin along with Steve Cokely, Khallid Abdul Muhammad and Leonard Jeffries Jr. documented the Black Holocaust at Howard University on April 19, 1994. For their research and scholarship regarding the methodical plunder, displacement, enslavement and unlawful premeditated massacre of Africans along with the systematic impact of such atrocities, the Unity Nation coterie faced an economic, political and cultural onslaught by those who advanced a Eurocentric historiography of the world. Therefore, Martin was considered to be a polemical scholar due to his relentless and warranted intellectual dissension against belligerent academic and societal forces. His intellectual dissension against belligerent forces came full circle during the 1990s as he became the target of several libel suits and vituperative attacks. As a consequence and riposte to deliberate provocations, Martin published “The Jewish Onslaught: Dispatches From the Wellesley Battlefront,” which some considered the best polemic by any human being since the 1829 publication of David Walker’s classic “An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World.”
Jeffries, the last living member of the Unity Nation coterie, said, “Dr. Martin is truly a great scholar and extraordinarily spirited human being who left an enduring intellectual legacy because he had a sacred mission to the production of knowledge and maintenance of Pan-African values, interests and principles.”
Martin’s scholarship Garvey, the Caribbean and Pan-Africanism is commendable and must be advanced by the next generation of Black scholars. May the ancestors be with him when we look for him and the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey in the whirlwind.