Richard Hart: Activist in the shadows
Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer
The Caribbean has never been short of intellectuals. Many of them came to prominence in the 1950s when anti-colonial passion was strong throughout the region.
Historian, politician and trade unionist Richard Hart is one of those thinkers. Now 94, he is the subject of a soon-to-be-released book by professor Rupert Lewis, a lecturer in political thought at the University of the West Indies' Mona campus.
In Richard Hart: Caribbean Political Activism, Lewis examines the former firebrand's influence on modern Caribbean society.
A founding member of the People's National Party (PNP) in 1938, Hart's name is not as familiar as his Jamaican and Caribbean contemporaries, such as Norman Manley or Guyana's Cheddi Jagan, both of whom he worked with.
Lewis believes Hart's contributions are usually overlooked.
"He had a Caribbean agenda from the 1930s. I would argue that Richard is the most consistent Caribbean activist," Lewis said.
Hart was involved in the shaping of Jamaica's political and trade union movements which paved the way for independence from Britain in 1962. Lewis notes that he never hogged the limelight.
"He was not someone who sought any mainstream position. He went anywhere he was placed."
Hart was unable to escape the spotlight in April 1952 when he was one of four persons dismissed by the PNP for supposed communist beliefs. It was known as the purge of the 'Four Hs'; the others banished were the Hill brothers, Frank and Ken, and Arthur Henry.
He was re-admitted to the PNP in 2001.
Shortly after his expulsion, Hart left for Guyana where he joined another leftist, Cheddi Jagan. For nearly two years, he was editor of The Mirror, a newspaper operated by Jagan's People's Progressive Party.
Hart next moved to Britain where he worked in local government for 17 years. He returned to the Caribbean in 1980 as an adviser to Grenadian prime minister Maurice Bishop's radical New Jewel Movement.
After the 1983 coup that toppled Bishop and the subsequent American-led invasion that restored normalcy to that island, Hart returned to England where he still lives.
He has been honoured for his accomplishments in recent years. In 2005, the Institute of Jamaica awarded him its Musgrave Gold Medal for his work in literature.
Hart received a doctor of laws from the University of the West Indies that year.