Afua Cooper

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Afua Cooper
Born (1957-11-08) 8 November 1957 (age 64)
Westmoreland, Jamaica
OriginToronto, Ontario, Canada
Occupation(s)Historian, author, dub poet

Afua Cooper (born 8 November 1957) is a Jamaican-born Canadian historian. In 2018 she is an associate professor of sociology at Dalhousie University.[1] She is an author and dub poet.[2][3] As of 2018 she has published five volumes of poetry.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Westmoreland, Jamaica, Cooper grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, and migrated to Toronto in 1980.[4] She studied history at the University of Toronto, where she earned a PhD in African-Canadian history with specialties in slavery and abolition.[4] Her dissertation, "Doing Battle in Freedom's Cause", is a biographical study of Henry Bibb, a 19th-century African-American abolitionist who lived and worked in Ontario.


Cooper has published four books of poetry, including Memories Have Tongue (1994), one of the finalists in the 1992 Casa de las Americas literary award. She is the co-author of We're Rooted Here and They Can't Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women's History (1994). She has also released two albums of her poetry.

Her book The Hanging of Angelique (2006) tells the story of an enslaved African Marie-Joseph Angelique who was executed in Montreal at a time when Quebec was under French colonial rule.[5][6][7] It was shortlisted for the 2006 Governor General's Literary Award for non-fiction.[8]

In 2011 Cooper was named to the James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University.[9] She also has expertise in women's history and New France studies.

In 2016 Cooper led the creation of a minor program in black and African diaspora studies at Dalhousie.[10] In 2018 she was named poet laureate for the city of Halifax, holding the role until 2020.[11]

Cooper has also written two historical novels for children, both based on real historical figures. My name is Henry Bibb: a story of slavery and freedom; and My name is Phillis Wheatley: a story of slavery and freedom, both published in 2009 by Kids Can Press.


We're Rooted Here and They Can't Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women's History was awarded the Ontario Historical Society's Joseph Brant Award for History in 1994. She is a winner of the Harry Jerome Award for professional excellence[12] In 2015, Cooper received the Novia Scotia Human Rights Commission’s Dr. Burnley Allan “Rocky” Jones Award.[13] In 2020, Cooper was awarded the Portia White Prize at the Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala.[14]


  • Breaking Chains (Weelahs, 1983)
  • Red Caterpillar On College Street (Sister Vision Press, 1989)
  • Memories Have Tongue: Poetry (Sister Vision Press, 1992)
  • We're Rooted Here and They Can't Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women's History, with Peggy Bristow, Dionne Brand, Linda Carty, Sylvia Hamilton and Adrienne Shadd (University of Toronto Press, 1994)
  • Utterances and Incantations: Women, Poetry, and Dub (Sister Vision Press, 1999)
  • The Underground Railroad: Next Stop, Toronto!, with Adrienne Shadd and Carolyn Smardz Frost (Natural Heritage Books, 2002)
  • The Hanging of Angélique, The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montréal (HarperCollins, 2006)
  • Copper Woman and Other Poems(Natural Heritage Books, 2006)
  • My Name is Henry Bibb: A Story of Slavery and Freedom [historical fiction] (Kids Can Press, 2009)
  • My Name is Phillis Wheatley: A Story of Slavery and Freedom [historical fiction] (Kids Can Press, 2009)
  • "To Learn… Even a Little, The Letters of Solomon Washington," in Hoping for Home, The Stories of Arrival (Scholastic Canada, 2011), 171–91.


  • WomanTalk: Women Dub Poets (Heartbeat Records, 1984)
  • Poetry Is Not a Luxury (Maya Music Group, 1985)
  • Your Silence Will Not Protect You (Maya Music, 1986)
  • Sunshine (Maya Music Group, 1989)
  • Worlds of Fire (Soundmind Productions, 2002)
  • Love and Revolution (Soundmind Productions, 2014)


  1. ^ "'Poetry brings people together,' says Halifax's new poet laureate". Jon Tattrie · CBC News, 24 Apr 2018
  2. ^ "Cooper, Afua". WorldCat Identities. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
  3. ^ "Canadian Poetry Online: Afua Cooper : Biography". University of Toronto Libraries. Archived from the original on 10 April 2010. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
  4. ^ a b c "Best-selling author Afua Cooper appointed Halifax's new poet laureate". National Post, 23 April 2018
  5. ^ Nailah King. "20 Black Writers to Read All Year Round". Room. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  6. ^ "The Burning of Montreal". The Montreal REview of Books, Volume 9, No. 3., 2006.
  7. ^ "5 things you should know about Marie-Joseph Angélique, a Black Canadian slave who inspired this play". Amanda Parris · CBC Arts · 12 Apr 2019
  8. ^ "2006 Finalists - Nonfiction". The Canada Council for the Arts. Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2010.
  9. ^ "The growing field of Black Canadian studies". University Affairs, ANGELYN FRANCIS | 7 AUG 2019
  10. ^ Katie Ingram, "400 years of African-Canadian history in a Dalhousie minor". Maclean's, 21 November 2016.
  11. ^ Brett Bundale, "Best-selling author Afua Cooper appointed as Halifax’s new poet laureate". Global News, 23 April 2018.
  12. ^ Allen Williams, Emily (22 May 2018). "Afua Cooper | The Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  13. ^ "Afua Cooper receives Nova Scotia Human Rights Award". New College - University of Toronto. 17 December 2015. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  14. ^ "Virtual 2020 Creative Nova Scotia Awards recognizes arts community achievements | The Chronicle Herald". The Chronicle Herald. 15 November 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.

External links[edit]