Jamaican historian receives honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto


Robert Hill

Fifty years after Jamaican historian Robert Hill graduated from the University of Toronto, he returned to his Canadian alma mater to receive an honorary  Doctor of Laws degree  ” “for his transformative scholarship in black history and Pan-Africanism.”

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.

In an address after receiving the honorary doctorate on Monday, Hill recalled that the day of his graduation in 1967 ” as just a blur to me now.”

“My thinking that day was on how free I felt and looking forward to getting home to Jamaica,” he added.

But while at his graduation 50 years ago he was ” left feeling totally alone,” last Monday he felt the ” strength and sincerity” of the welcome he received.

He said he believes in Canada  ” and in its infinite possibilities  as a nation and as a people.”

Hill is internationally recognized as a leading authority on the life of  Marcus Garvey, a champion of black nationalism in Jamaica and the United States, 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.

His  fascination with Garvey began in high school when he wrote an essay about him and won a national prize.