A. A. Thorne was born in Barbados, and became the first person of African descent from any British colony to earn both a bachelor's degree and master's degree from any British University in England (graduating with honors from University of Durham, England in 1898). He served as an educator, writer and elected official in British Guiana for many decades, creating a positive impact for generations by advocating for the principles of freedom, democracy and self-determination.
Thorne moved from Barbados to British Guiana, where in 1894 he founded The Middle School, the country's first free coeducational private school that enrolled children regardless of gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status. The school provided a level of education that rivaled the quality of standards previously available only to students privileged enough to attend the prestigious Queen's College and Bishop's High School.
Alfred Athiel Thorne was the son of Rev. Samuel Athiel Thorne of Barbados and Louisa Jane Alleyne. He was raised and educated in Barbados at Lodge School and Codrington College which, at the time, was associated with the University of Durham in England.
A.A. Thorne’s first marriage was to Eleanor Amanda McLean, a teacher and accomplished artist, who used her inheritance to help him setup the Middle School although he had arrived with money given to him by his maternal grandfather, William Theodore Alleyne (an owner of a sugar plantation and producer of Mount Gay rum). They had five children. The first was Alfred Hubert Thorne, editor for the Argosy and Chronicle Newspaper in Guyana (who had four daughters, Thelma, Joyce, Winifred and Iva), followed by the twins Albert Athiel Thorne, a Chartered Accountant (who had two children, Daphne and Leila) and Alfred McLean-Thorne (who studied law in the UK, worked as a justice of the peace in Guyana and had six children: David, who likewise studied in the UK, where he settled; John, who also settled in Europe (Holland); Lynn and Barbara, who both emigrated to New York and Patrick). His fourth and fifth children were also twins: Alfreda, who died while still at college in Barbados and Elfreda (who had two children: Audrey Maud and Dennis Fields, who also settled in the UK).
On the death of Eleanor Amanda, A.A. Thorne remarried with one of his students, Violet Janet Ashurst, who subsequently became an educator and artist. Thorne remained happily married to Violet Ashurst for the rest of his life. Financially secure, he invested in the upbringing of the five children his second marriage produced (four sons and one daughter), all of whom were born and raised in Georgetown and migrated to the USA as young adults: Alfred P. Thorne, PhD, an accomplished economist and educator; Duncan John Vivian Thorne, DMD, a New York-based orthodontist and entrepreneur; Arthur George Thorne, who helped to care for his mother Violet as she reached the age of 99; Aileen Roselle Callender, who became the first black female manager for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and is retired in Dallas, TX; and Cecil Michael Thorne, MD, an accomplished pathologist trained in Germany, France and USA, who served as chief of staff for a leading private hospital in Central Ohio and as a longtime lecturer at Ohio State Medical School (from which he refused compensation) and contributor to public service initiatives including Rotary International.
During Garvey’s early life J. Albert Thorne introduced the Back-to-Africa idea to Jamaica. Thorne was born in Barbados in 1860 where he worked as a schoolteacher. His goal was for Blacks to settle in parts of Africa that were ruled by Britain because he felt that the British owed them something. To accomplish his goals Thorne started the African Colonial Enterprise and distributed pamphlets with information about the Back-to-Africa movement. Thorne was unsuccessful for several reasons, the most influential one being the time-period. The European powers in Africa were extremely protective of their spheres of influence due to their constant struggle to stay in power. Thus, the Europeans were not prepared or in any condition to offer settlement to repatriated Blacks. Despite Thorne’s failure to succeed, he did set the stage for Garvey’s rise to power. Marcus Garvey had similar goals as Thorne, but he also had the advantage of timing and persuasion. Not only did he lead the Back-to-Africa Movement but he also was dedicated to raising the Black position in society. Dr J. Albert Thorne who had worked to repatriate Afrikans from the Caribbean to Central Afrikan in the 1890's lived in the same parish in Jamaica as Garvey.