Dr. Esmeralda Thornhill

Professor, Dalhousie Law School, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS & QC. Born: Barbados.

Lawyer, Human Rights and Anti-Racist Educator, Dr. Esmeralda Thornhill is a Full Professor of Law at Dalhousie University.  From 1996-2002, she was the first holder of the James Robinson Johnston Endowed Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University, a national initiative to “bring Black culture, reality, and perspectives into the Academy.” Her expertise and writings on ‘race’ are recognized both nationally and internationally by academics and policy-makers alike such as the United Nations and UNESCO and institutions of higher of learning including University of West Indies (Barbados, Trinidad), McGill, Concordia, UBC, Windsor, Western Ontario, Temple, Cheyney, UNC (Chapel Hill), Wellesley, Hamilton College and Central Connecticut State where she has lectured.

Dr. Thornhill is fluently trilingual in English, French and Spanish. She is an experienced advocate and community organizer who has helped to pioneer multiple organizations at local, national and international levels. She was also instrumental in establishing No Gyves Press/Les Presses sans Fers.

Works: Blacks in Canada: Retrospects, Introspects, Prospects (2008); Racism… Talking Out (1993); Regard sur le racisme: perspectives juridiques à partir d’un vécu noir (1993, 1995); Focus On Racism: Legal Perspectives From A Black Experience (1995); Equality in the Legal Profession (1994); Black Women: The Missing Pages from Canadian Women’s Studies (1994); Black Women’s Studies in Teaching Related to Women: Help or Hindrance to Universal Sisterhood? (1984, 1985, 1989, 1991, 1992); Focus On Black Women (1982, 1985); Guidelines for Implementing More Visible Partnerships in School (1986); Multicultural and Intercultural Education: The Canadian Experience (1999); Multiculturalism, Racism and the School System: What’s To Be Done? What Must I Do? (1984); ‘Race’ and Class in Canada: The Case of Blacks in Quebec (1982); La discrimination raciale dans le logement (1978); Research Priorities Critical for Developing Meaningful Research Programmes on ‘Race’ (1991); The Sharpeville Six and the Death Penalty in South Africa, Deposition in the U.S. Congressional Record (1988); The Challenge of Focusing on Racism, Deposition to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Prosecution of Donald Marshall Jr. (1988); Final Report on the Aspirations and Expectations of Quebec’s Black Community with Regard to Education (1978); Mémoire sur le Livre vert sur l’éducation (1978); Congress of Black Women Brief on Bill C-18 (Multiculturalism) (1989); Congress of Black Women Brief on Multiculturalism (1978); Racism and the Black World Response, Symposium Proceedings (2001).

Honours: First holder of the James Robinson Johnston Endowed Chair in Black Canadian Studies; Canada-U.S. Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Temple University (2006-07); recipient of two Honorary Doctorates from CUNY and Concordia; first Woman of Colour appointed to the Quebec Council for the Status of Women, The Conseil general of the Barreau du Quebec, and the Montreal Public Service Commission; recipient of the Quebec Woman of the Year Award for Humanitarian and Social Action (1992); profiled in Those 350 Women Who Built Montreal and L’Agenda des Femmes; International Observer to the Uganda Constituent Assembly Elections (1994); Expert appearing before the 1988 Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Prosecution of Donald Marshall Jr. and the UN Committee for the Implementation of the International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2006); recipient of Citations of Merit and Appreciation from notably, the House of Commons, Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly; National Film Board of Canada; Public Prosecution Service of Nova Scotia; International Cross-Cultural Black Women’s Studies Institute; Coloured Women’s Club of Montreal; Congress of Black Women of Canada.

Favourite book? Roots by Alex Haley. It greatly contextualized, textured, and critically honed my understanding of our condition as Black People in this Western Hemisphere.Favourite quote? “It’s left to us.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

What inspires you? As a Black woman, I am both humbled and pained by the knowledge that nameless and voiceless multitudes have preceded me, made sacrifices and have never been privy to the opportunities that I myself have been fortunate to have in my lifetime. This awareness keeps me grounded.

Given the chance, what would you love to do that you haven’t done yet? The list is so long that it is impossible for me to say at this stage.

Why do you do what you do? I am driven both by a deep belief that we, People of African descent, are indeed “Significant Humanity”, and by an abiding sense of responsibility to both Self and Collectivity.