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Afua Cooper’s childhood in Kingston, Jamaica, was idyllic. She lived deep in the midst of an oral culture, surrounded by storytellers and music. Life was a mix of school, running races in the streets with neighbourhood children and watching films at the Institute of Jamaica.

Children had their own world, separate from the adults around them, but kids weren’t oblivious to the world of grown-ups. Despite the distractions of the nearby beach and music lessons at the institute down the street, young Afua was consumed by a curiosity about politics and history.

Her political education began at about age 10, hanging around her uncle’s corner store. The shop sat on a side road that lead to the town’s main street. People would stop in all day long to buy cans of soda and sweets. The old men would gather at the tables and chairs along the sidewalk to play dominoes, gossip, and discuss world events.

They talked about South Africa under apartheid and the executions of black activists, about the injustices visited on black people by a regime that was upholding white supremacy. Afua says it was in that moment, exposed to the brutality faced by black South Africans, she realized she was connected to a broader global history.

Afua says, “It was a real shock to my system to think (apartheid) was happening. So it was a kind of coming of age or coming into consciousness of the plight of black people worldwide that such a system existed. It changed my world.” Read more…

In January of 1792, 1,100 Black Loyalists sailed in 15 ships from Halifax Harbour to Sierra Leone where they founded Freetown. These people were the first large group of former slaves ever to return to Africa. Many descendants of these families still live in Freetown and are proud of their Nova Scotian roots. Visit Black Halifax to see the performance…

Written and performed by Dr. Afua Cooper (visit Black Halifax web-site for the full performance video)

A street in Africville, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1965

The seven collections featured in Under a Northern Star speak to critical themes in African-Canadian history and are connected to each other in more ways than seemed possible at first glance. What is brilliant about these collections is that each one speaks to the historical experience of African Canadians in different parts of the country at different time periods. Moreover, each one tells a story of the important contributions Blacks made to Canada as pioneers, enslaved persons, explorers, citizens and settlers. Of great import is that these collections lay to rest the myth of Black people just “came off the boat,” but reveal that they were a part of what became known as Canada from its very inception. The collections reveal the multi-layered history of Black Canadians, and explore, in depth, Black people’s vast achievements and their contributions to Canadian society…. Read more at Library And Archives Canada site

Click to listen to visti Halifax Examiner and listen to the podcast...Historian Afua Cooper is on the show this week to talk about racism, slavery and Lord Dalhousie, the university’s namesake. She’s the James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dal. She has a few things to say about the statues coming down. Plus, Tim and Terra discuss the latest rally at the Cornwallis statue, the Bloomfield property and the Chronicle Herald.

Visit Halifax Examiner to listen to ExaminerRadio 125: Rally ‘Round The Statues

Canada’s 150th birthday has prompted much looking back at our history. And one of the things Canadians have long been proud about is our status as the final stop on the Underground Railroad, a safe refuge for American slaves fleeing bondage.

This is true, and we should be proud. But let’s not be too proud — after all, the colonies that became Canada also had slavery for more than two centuries, ending only 30 years before U.S. President Abraham Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

When Britain took over New France, about 7 per cent of the colony was enslaved, or around 4,000 out of a population of 60,000. Two-thirds were indigenous slaves, known as Panis, and the other third African, who cost twice as much and were a status symbol. The British did not set them free. Read more… by Joshua Ostroff