History of the Chair

Established in 1991, the James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a significant senior academic post in Canada. Based in Halifax to honour the unique historical presence of African Nova Scotians, the position connects local black communities with a national and international perspective. The goal of the chair is to develop black studies in Canada, to produce significant scholarship, and to create bridges between academia and the wider African descended communities.

The first chair

Esmeralda M.A. Thornhill

A lawyer, linguist, lecturer, educator and writer who has worked in the human rights field of anti-racist education since 1977, Esmeralda Thornhill is a tenured full professor of law at Dalhousie University. In July 1996, she was appointed the first holder of the distinguished James Robinson Johnston Endowed Chair in Black Canadian Studies.

More information about Esmeralda M.A. Thornhill's contributions as JRJ Chair

The second chair

Professor David Divine

Prof. Divine moved with his family to Halifax from London, England in 2004, with the intention of staying in Canada after his six-year tenure as the James R. Johnston Chair of Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University. He has occupied senior positions in social work administration, social work education, and social housing in the United Kingdom. He has 20 years of experience in community development issues operating at practitioner, policy, and academic levels. His working life has largely involved working with the most disadvantaged communities.

Annual reports – 2004 to 2010


More information about Professor Divine's contributions as JRJ Chair.

The third chair

Dr. Afua Cooper

On May 7, 2011 Dr. Afua Cooper was officially unveiled as the new James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology.   Her term as JRJ Chair ended on August 31, 2017.  


Online Contributions and Publications


Creative Writing

Radio and TV Interviews

Photo Gallery

Poster Gallery

Distinguished Lecture Series