Previous Chairs



The Inaugural JRJ Chair (1996-2002) was Dr. Esmeralda Thornhill, situated in the Faculty of Law, the same faculty from which Mr. Johnston graduated. Dr. Thornhill, a fluently trilingual and eminent legal scholar, was instrumental in co-developing the path-breaking course, Critical Race & Legal Theory: Race, Racism and Law in Canada, perhaps the earliest of critical race and law courses in Canada. During her tenure as JRJ Chair, Thornhill, in partnership and collaboration with an ensemble of local, national, and international organizations convened an international symposium on the needs of people of African descent throughout the diaspora, titled, “Racism and the Black World Response” and an initiative marking the United Nations third Decade Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.   For further information, on Dr. Esmeralda Thornhill, click here.

The second JRJ Chair (2005-2010), Prof. David Divine was hosted in the Faculty of Health Professions. Prof. Divine a scholar of social work, areas of research included, social housing, addressing social exclusion, Black men’s sexuality, service delivery, HIV/AIDS, and immigration. Divine planned a number of national and international conferences, specifically the 2005 national conference: Multiple Lenses: Voices from the Diaspora located in Canada (JRJ Chair np). The conference acknowledged the 400th anniversary of the first recorded presence of a Black person on Canadian soil – Mathew Da Costa in 1605 (Divine, JRJ Chair Annual Report, 2004-2005, 8). The conference explored how Black people in Canada have identified themselves and have been identified over this 400 year period through the lenses of “history, law, literature, film, music, Black community organizations, media, sports, Black spirituality, party politics, labour markets, education and lived experience” (Divine 8). In 2007, Multiple Lenses: voices from the Diaspora located in Canada, edited by Divine, was published, a direct outcome of the conference. Prof. Divine’s JRJ Chair annual reports are located here (please move reports to another page which is linked here). For further information on Prof. David Divine, click here.

Dr. Afua Cooper, the third JRJ Chair (2011-2017), was situated in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dr. Cooper’s areas of research address African Canadian, abolitionism, women and gender, the Black Atlantic and slavery. She is a historian and a dub poet. Dr. Cooper developed the first Black Studies minor at a Canadian university and established a number of networks, including the Dalhousie Black Faculty and Staff Association, and the Black Canadian Studies Association. As her term was ending as JRJ Chair, Dr. Cooper chaired the Lord Dalhousie scholarly panel. This panel was tasked with examining and helping to understand questions surrounding Lord Dalhousie’s historic links to the institution of slavery and racial injustice ( For Further information on Dr. Afua Cooper, click here.