Afua Hirsch

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Afua Hirsch
Fullsizeoutput 8943.jpg
Hirsch filming for Brit(ish) in Lambeth, London, December 2017
Born (1981-06-12) 12 June 1981 (age 39)
Stavanger, Norway
EducationWimbledon High School;
St Peter's College, Oxford
OccupationJournalist, broadcaster, barrister, international development
Notable work
Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging (2018)
RelativesPeter Hirsch (great-uncle)

Afua Hirsch (born 12 June 1981)[citation needed] is a Norwegian-born British writer, broadcaster, and former barrister. She has worked as a journalist for The Guardian newspaper, and was the Social Affairs and Education Editor for Sky News from 2014 until 2017.

Early life[edit]

Afua Hirsch was born in Stavanger, Norway,[1] to a British father and an Akan mother from Ghana, and was raised in Wimbledon, South-West London.[2][3] Her paternal grandfather, Hans (later John), who was Jewish, had fled Berlin in 1938.[4] Her great-uncle is the metallurgist Sir Peter Hirsch. Her maternal grandfather, who graduated from the University of Cambridge, was involved in establishing the post-independence education system in Ghana but later became a political exile.[5]

Hirsch was educated at the private Wimbledon High School,[6] and then studied philosophy, politics, and economics at St Peter's College, Oxford (1999–2002).[7][8][9] After her graduation with a Bachelor of Arts degree, she took the Graduate Diploma in Law at the BPP Law School.[3] She qualified as a barrister in 2006 and trained at Doughty Street Chambers.[9]


Hirsch began working as a lawyer in criminal defence, public and international law.

Journalism and writings[edit]

Hirsh was a legal correspondent for The Guardian.[10] She has lived in Britain and Senegal, and served as The Guardian's West Africa correspondent, based in Accra, Ghana.[11][12] From 2014 to 2017, she was the Social Affairs and Education Editor at Sky News.[13]

Hirsch contributed the piece "What Does It Mean To Be African?" to Margaret Busby's 2019 anthology New Daughters of Africa.[14]

Guardian article about Nelson's Column[edit]

In August 2017, in The Guardian, Hirsch questioned whether Nelson's Column should remain in place, with the implication it might be removed. She argued that the London monument is a symbol of white supremacy because Horatio Nelson opposed the abolitionist movement.[15] Not long afterward, the art historian and former museum director Sir Roy Strong said the suggestion the column should be taken down was a "ridiculous" viewpoint, commenting that "Once you start rewriting history on that scale, there won't be a statue or a historic house standing....The past is the past. You can't rewrite history".[16][2] The following May, Hirsch said the idea of removing Nelson's Column distracted from her main point that Britain should look more carefully at its past to understand itself better today.[17] In an article introducing her television documentary, The Battle for Britain's Heroes, Hirsch stated that she "wasn't actually waiting in a bulldozer, ready to storm Trafalgar Square, as some people seemed to believe".[18]


Hirsch's book Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging (ISBN 9781911214281) was published by Jonathan Cape in January 2018. The book is part-memoir and discusses black history, culture and politics in the context of Britain, Senegal and Ghana.

Television and audio[edit]

Hirsh is currently[when?] one of the panellists on the Sky News discussion programme The Pledge (UK TV programme).[citation needed]

In June 2020, following the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Hirsch spoke on Tell A Friend podcast about the challenges of navigating Britain's media landscape and the racism she faced along the way.[19]

The Battle for Britain's Heroes[edit]

In the television programme The Battle for Britain's Heroes, first broadcast by Britain's Channel 4 in late May 2018, Hirsch raised lesser-known aspects of the career of former British prime minister Winston Churchill, such as his attitude to Indians and advocacy of gassing "uncivilised tribes" in Mesopotamia (now partly modern-day Iraq) after the First World War.[20] In his review of the programme, Hugo Rifkind in The Times wrote that the "subtext is often that Hirsch is attacking Britain in even mentioning this stuff", which itself implies, because of her own background that it "is frankly uppity of her", but Hirsch does not let "her views be defined in opposition to those of her detractors".[21]

African Renaissance: When Art Meets Power[edit]

In 2020, Hirsch presented the three-year documentary series African Renaissance: When Art Meets Power on BBC Four.[22] Hirsch visited Ethiopia, Senegal and Kenya, meeting musicians and artists, and recounting the history of each country.


Hirsh was on the panel of judges for the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction that made Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo joint winners, causing much controversy.[23][24][25]

Later that year, Hirsch was included in the 2020 Powerlist of the most influential Britons from African/African-Caribbean heritage.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Hirsch met Sam, her partner, while each was pursuing a legal career.[2] He is from Tottenham, north London, and of Ghanaian descent.[27] The couple's daughter was born in 2011.[28]



  • Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging, London: Jonathan Cape, 2018, ISBN 9781911214281
  • Equal to Everything: Judge Brenda and the Supreme Court (for children), Legal Action Group, 2019 ISBN 978 1 912273 48 5[29]

Selected articles[edit]

  • "What's it like being black in Norway?". The Guardian, 26 May 2013
  • "Britain: rainbow nation, racist background", Prospect, 16 March 2017
  • "Toppling statues? Here's why Nelson's column should be next". The Guardian, 22 August 2017
  • "The fantasy of 'free speech'", Prospect, 16 February 2018
  • "The racism that killed George Floyd was built in Britain". The Guardian, 3 June 2020
  • "Afua Hirsch On The Crucial Black History Lessons All Schools Should Be Teaching". Vogue, 15 June 2020


  1. ^ Hirsch, Afua (26 May 2013). "What's it like being black in Norway?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Evans, Diana (2 February 2018). "Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch – island stories". Financial Times. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Afua Hirsch". St Peter's College. Archived from the original on 21 February 2018. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  4. ^ Lipman, Jennifer (22 January 2018). "Afua Hirsch: Asking the difficult questions on identity". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  5. ^ Kinchen, Rosie (11 February 2018). "Afua Hirsch: 'I'm British — why should I be grateful for that?'". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  6. ^ "Spotlight on Afua Hirsch, Wimbledon High School". Girls' Day School Trust. 21 May 2018.
  7. ^ "On being Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch (SPC 1999)". Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  8. ^ Hirsch, Afua (15 August 2017). "I went to Oxford. As a black female student, I found it alienating and elitist". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 10 February 2020 – via
  9. ^ a b "About". Afua Hirsch website.
  10. ^ "Afua Hirsch on human rights | British Institute of Human Rights". Archived from the original on 26 August 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  11. ^ Hirsch, Afua (26 August 2012). "Our parents left Africa – now we are coming home". The Observer. London. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  12. ^ "Afua Hirsch". The Guardian. London. 16 September 2008. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Afua Hirsch". Sky News. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Read 'What Does It Mean To Be African?' by Afua Hirsch, from the new anthology New Daughters of Africa", The Johannesburg Review of Books, 5 August 2019.
  15. ^ Hirsch, Afua (22 August 2017). "Toppling statues? Here's why Nelson's column should be next". The Guardian.
  16. ^ Freeman, Laura (4 September 2017). "Everywhere Sir Roy Strong looks, the thumbscrews are tightening". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2 June 2018. (subscription required)
  17. ^ Jackson, James (30 May 2018). "The Battle for Britain's Heroes". The Times. Retrieved 2 June 2018. (subscription required)
  18. ^ Hirsch, Afua (29 May 2018). "Britain doesn't just glorify its violent past: it gets high on it". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  19. ^ Knight, Bryan. "Brit-ish (feat. Afua Hirsch) - Audio".
  20. ^ O'Grady, Sean (30 May 2018). "TV Review: The Battle for Britain's Heroes (Channel 4)". The Independent. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  21. ^ Rifkind, Hugo (2 June 2018). "TV review: Hugo Rifkind on The Battle for Britain's Heroes". The Times. Retrieved 2 June 2018. (subscription required)
  22. ^ "African Renaissance: When Art Meets Power". Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  23. ^ Sherwin, Adam (14 October 2019), "Booker Prize 2019 row as award shared between Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo", i.
  24. ^ Hirsch, Afua (16 October 2019), "Judging the Booker prize: 'I'm proud of our decision'", The Guardian.
  25. ^ Boyne, John (18 October 2019), "In defence of the Booker judges", Irish Times.
  26. ^ Mills, Kelly-Ann (25 October 2019). "Raheem Sterling joins Meghan and Stormzy in top 100 most influential black Brits". mirror. Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  27. ^ Evans, Martina (3 February 2018). "Brit(ish) review: dazzling stories about race and identity". The Irish Times. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  28. ^ Hirsch, Afua (2018). Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging. London: Jonathan Cape/Vintage. p. 288. ISBN 9781473546899.
  29. ^ "Equal to Everything: Judge Brenda and the Supreme Court", Legal Action Group.

External links[edit]