A scholar, historian, poet, and social and cultural commentator, Dr. Afua Cooper’s expertise in and contributions to the arts, history, and education were recognized when she was presented in 2005 with the Harry Jerome Award for Professional Excellence, and in 2007 with the Planet Africa Renaissance Award. Afua holds a Ph.D. in Black Canadian Studies and the African Diaspora from the University of Toronto. Her expertise includes African Canadian culture, Black women’s history, gender, slavery, abolition, and freedom, Black literatures, and education. She has conducted research on African-descended people and their culture across Canada, and internationally in Jamaica, France, the United States, Britain, Senegal, and Ethiopia. Her co-authored publication We’re Rooted Here and they Can’t Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women’s History won the Joseph Brant prize for the best history book. Her ground-breaking book on Canadian slavery, The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Slavery in Canada and the Burning of Old Montreal was nominated for the Governor General’s award. Afua has curated and worked on five exhibits including, The Underground Railroad, Next Stop Freedom, Enslaved Africans in Upper Canada, and The Transatlantic Slave Trade. In addition, Afua has designed and taught courses on gender, and Black history and culture at several universities. She has also lectured on these topics nationally and internationally. Further, Dr. Cooper served as the coordinator and chief knowledge officer of the Ontario Initiative to Commemorate the Bicentenary of the British Slave Trade Abolition, in 2007. Her work on Black Canadian history and culture has made her the leading Canadian scholar in such fields.
Through her outstanding work and practice as a poet, she helped to centre dub poetry in Canada and beyond, and co-founded the Dub Poets Collective. As creative director of the DPC, Afua engaged communities through the literary arts, and thus enhanced the Canadian literary and cultural landscape. Further, she was instrumental in organizing several international dub poetry festivals. Afua has published five books of poetry, including the critically acclaimed Copper Woman and Other Poems. Her poetry has a strong sense of memory, history, place, and spirituality. Further, Afua has published two historical novels, which have garnered Canadian and American awards. Her work in the creative arts has been recognized with the Premier of Ontario Award for Excellence in the Arts, a Governor General’s Award nomination, and internationally with the Beacon of Freedom Award (recently awarded for her book My Name is Phillis Wheatley).
In recognizing the tremendous multi-discipline contributions Afua Cooper has made to Canadian society and life, and internationally, Essence Magazine named her as one of the twenty-five women who are shaping the world.
As a result of her scholarship and praxis, she was appointed in 2011 as James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Studies at Dalhousie University, Halifax. As the Johnston Chair, she launched the Chair’s distinguished lecture series which for the past two years has brought scholars, artists, and activists to Dalhousie University and Nova Scotia as part of the chair’s work in democratizing epistemologies and bridging the gap between the academy and community.