Issue date: 29 October 2004

ISSUE DATE: 29/10/04

The University of the West of England is awarding the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters to Ansell Richard Hart in recognition of his contribution to Jamaica and the Caribbean area and to related academic studies. The honorary degree will be conferred at the Award Ceremony of the Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Science on Tuesday 2 November at 14.45 at Bristol Cathedral.

Richard Hart was born in Jamaica in 1917 and educated there and in England. He was articled and sat the English Law Society examinations in Jamaica, where he was admitted to practice as a solicitor in 1941. He figured significantly in Caribbean politics during the course of the 20th century, and as an educator in both the Caribbean and the United Kingdom.

For many years Richard Hart practised in Jamaica and its then dependencies, the Turks and Cayman Islands. He was Legal Advisor to the Sugar and Agricultural Workers Union in Jamaica for three years and also represented the trade unions in Antigua and St Kitts at three Commissions of Inquiry. He enrolled as a solicitor in England and Wales in 1962.

An active participant in trade union and political affairs in Jamaica and the Caribbean area, Richard Hart became a founding member of the People’s National Party in Jamaica in 1938. It was the first political party to be established on the island. He served as a member of its Executive Committee until 1952, when he was expelled for ‘communist activity’. However, he was a special guest at the 60th anniversary of the founding of the party in 1998 and his membership was then restored.

Richard Hart was also a member of the Labour Committee, convened by the late Norman Manley QC, to assist in the formation of trade unions. He took special responsibility for drafting a model trade union constitution. Known as one of the “four Hs”, he was imprisoned without trial by Governor Richards, from November 1942 until March 1943, as part of his attack on ‘left-led’ trade unions and the People’s National Party’s campaign for self-government.

Richard Hart was editor of the progressive newspaper ‘The Mirror’ in Guyana for two years until he migrated to England. He then became employed as a solicitor in local government, holding the post of Head of the Legal Department with a local government authority in Surrey from 1968 until 1982, when he became Legal Advisor to the People’s Revolutionary Government in Grenada.

In 1983 Richard Hart was appointed Attorney General of Grenada; a post he held until the American invasion in October of that year. He then returned to private practice with a firm of solicitors in Surrey until his retirement from legal practice in 1989.

Richard Hart’s many other roles have included: Acting Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Council (predecessor to the Trade Union Council of Jamaica); a member of the Trade Union Council, and of its successor the Trade Union Congress of Jamaica (Vice President 1950-52); Chairman of the Jamaica Youth Movement; Assistant Secretary and Secretary of the Caribbean Labour Congress; co-founder and Chairman of the Peoples Educational Organisation; founding member and President of Caribbean Labour Solidarity in London; co-founder of the London based Committee for Human Rights in Grenada; and, co-founder of the Foundation for Phyllis Coard, Jamaica.

As an academic, Richard Hart taught at Northwestern University, USA, and has also been a visiting lecturer at a number of Canadian and American universities, the University of Guyana, University of Havana, University of the West Indies in Jamaica and Trinidad and the University of Paris. He has lectured internationally on the Grenada crisis on behalf of the Committee for Human Rights in Grenada. Throughout his professional career in the Caribbean, Richard Hart played a key role in shaping the region’s political, economic and social development during the transition from colonial rule to independence. Since his retirement, he has continued to be a prolific author and speaker on Caribbean history, politics and economics. He was a founder member, and for several years Vice-Chairman, of the Society for Caribbean Studies, and was made an honorary life member in 1989.


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