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#UofTGrad17: Three things you should know about honorary grad Robert A. Hill

U of T alumnus Robert Hill (seated at right) is one of the world's leading scholars (photo by Steve Frost)

He's known as the “archaeologist of Black memory.” 

Alumnus Robert Hill, a professor emeritus at University of California, Los Angeles, is considered the world’s leading authority on the global influence of Pan-Africanism in the 20th century.

The Jamaican historian is also a leading scholar on Marcus Garvey. And his own scholarship has landed him a place among the great African American and Afro-Caribbean scholars including Carter G. Woodson and W.E.B Du Bois and C.L.R. James.

Read a Toronto Star interview with Hill

Fifty years after he graduated from U of T, Hill receives a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, “for his transformative scholarship in black history and Pan-Africanism.” He is among 16 people being recognized with honorary degrees by the University of Toronto in 2017.

Below, are three things you should know about Hill.


Marcus Garvey archives

Hill's fascination with Garvey, a champion of black nationalism in Jamaica and the United States, began in high school when he wrote an essay about him and won a national prize.

He is now internationally recognized as a leading authority on the life of Garvey and the history of the Garvey movement.

As director and editor-in-chief of UCLA's Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers Project, Hill has published 14 volumes on the mass movement inspired by Garvey. He was executive consultant on the new PBS documentary, Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind, and he served as an adviser to the Jamaican government on its Garvey centennial.

“Garvey's message forms an intrinsic part of American blacks struggle for freedom," Hill said. "He's become a real icon of 20th-century black thought.”

Pan-Africanism

Hoping to trace the history of Pan-Africanism, Hill tracked down editions of Cyril Brigg’s pioneering New Negro journal, The Crusader. The journal is now recognized as a crucial document of interwar African-American and Afro-Caribbean radicalism. 

He also discovered the manuscript of James’ unpublished masterpiece, American Civilization. Hill is the literary executor of the estate of C.L.R. James.

Through his work, he has elevated scholarship on the Black radical movement and created archives for the movement's key figures. 

Walter Rodney

Hill was a personal friend of Walter Rodney, the Guyanese historian and political activist and scholar who was assassinated in Guyana in 1980. 

Hill played a significant role in some of Rodney’s key publications.  He edited and wrote the forward to Walter Rodney Speaks: The Making of an African Intellectual and co-authored the introduction to How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.