Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX Reads The Book of Negroes: Lawrence Hill joins StFX Jan. 25-29 as McKenna Scholar in Residence

January 25th, 2021
Lawrence Hill

StFX students—and the wider community—have a terrific opportunity to connect with and learn from one of Canada’s most successful authors, Lawrence Hill, as he starts an intensive, week-long virtual residency Jan. 25-29, 2021 as the 2020-2021 McKenna Scholar in Residence. 

Mr. Hill, a professor of creative writing at the University of Guelph and a writer whose novels and non-fiction work have been widely read in Canada and around the world, and translated into many languages, starts his residency today, Jan. 25th. He will teach a series of classes about writing and research and will lead ‘StFX Reads: Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes,’ as StFX students and the community gather to discuss his award-winning novel. 

During the week, he will hold daily brown bag lunch meetings with students from different parts of the university to talk about his work and answer questions, as well as nightly evening events that are free and open to the public. Participants are able to pick up free copies of Mr. Hill’s novel, The Book of Negroes at the StFX library.  

“Together, as a community, we will read and talk about Hill’s novel and the important topics with which it deals, and we will be able to chat with and learn from Lawrence Hill himself. All are welcome to participate: students, faculty, staff, and members of the community,” say organizers from the McKenna Centre. 

Centre director Dr. Mathias Nilges says each year the McKenna Centre awards an intensive one-week residency to an outstanding, notable scholar whose work exemplifies the values of both the McKenna Centre and StFX, focusing in particular on leadership that is aimed at social justice and social change. This year they were delighted to welcome Mr. Hill.

“This intensive-residency program that we created is exciting, because it brings additional expertise to our campus, and it creates an opportunity for students, faculty, and also community members to learn from a leading scholar and accomplished leader during daily events, which are also combined with opportunities for students to meet the scholars during student-only sessions. This way, we afford students the opportunity to personally meet and chat with influential scholars, which adds to the learning experience and offers students the chance to get important advice and tips for their own research and work,” he says. 

The nightly public events, held each evening from 7-9 p.m., include:

January 25: Adapting The Book of Negroes to the screen: the perils and pleasures, a conversation between Lawrence Hill and El Jones followed by discussion. Welcome will be provided by Brennah Agnew and moderators are Dr. Maureen Moynagh and Rebecca Mesay,

January 26: Researching and writing historical fiction: how not to get stuck in the stacks. Lawrence Hill shares his thoughts about researching The Book of Negroes as well as his novel in progress about the thousands of African-American soldiers who travelled to northern BC and Yukon to build the Alaska Highway during WWII. Welcome is by Dr. Ronald Charles and moderator is Tara Reddick,

January 27: On becoming a writer: Lawrence Hill’s personal and family reflections. Welcome will be by Lee Anna Osei and moderator is Aliyah Fraser,

January 28: What prisoners have to teach us about story: Lawrence Hill reflects on volunteering and teaching in federal penitentiaries. Welcome is by Dr. Ornella Nzindukiyimana and moderator is Boye Matuluko,

January 29: As you wish: A time to ask Lawrence Hill questions and discuss The Book of Negroes, with a welcome by Dr. Kevin Wamsley and moderators are Claire Joseph and Devon Parris,

This year, in preparation for the residency, English professor Dr. Maureen Moynagh and her students Elise Canning, Amelia Perry, Alyssa Spridgeon, Devon Parris, and Addy Strickland, offered a special student-led Quarantine Book Club, during which they discussed the novel. 


Lawrence Hill is the author of 10 books, including the novels The Illegal, The Book of Negroes, Any Known Blood, and the memoir Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada. The manuscript for his new children’s novel, Beatrice and Croc Harry, is with his publisher. 

He is the son of American civil rights activists – an African-American father and white mother – who married in the South and moved the next day to Canada, where they spent the rest of their lives, raised a family, wrote books about Black history in Canada and continued their civil rights activism. Lawrence Hill’s grandfather and father were African-American soldiers in the US Army in World Wars I and II, respectively. 

He is writing a new novel for adults about the African-American soldiers who helped build the Alaska Highway in northern BC and Yukon in 1942-43. Hill’s father, Daniel G. Hill, served as the first director and later was the Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. He also served as Ombudsman of Ontario. With his wife Donna Hill, he founded the Ontario Black History Society, for which Lawrence Hill volunteered over the course of many years. 

Mr. Hill is the winner of various awards including the National Magazine Award for best feature article, The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for his novel The Book of Negroes, and twice has won CBC Radio’s Canada Reads. He delivered the 2013 Massey Lectures, based on his non-fiction book Blood: The Stuff of Life. He co-wrote the adaptation for the six-part television miniseries The Book of Negroes, which won 11 Canadian Screen Awards. His volunteer activities include serving as an honorary patron of Crossroads International, whose work in community economic development in sub-Saharan Africa he has supported for 40 years. His essay about his mother, “Act of Love: The Life and Death of Donna Mae Hill” appeared in The Globe and Mail in 2018 and enriched a national conversation about medically assisted dying. 

Formerly a reporter with The Globe and Mail and parliamentary correspondent for The Winnipeg Free Press, Hill speaks fluent French and some Spanish. He has lived and worked across Canada, in Baltimore, and in Spain and France. He is an honorary patron of Crossroads International, for which he travelled as a volunteer to the West African countries Niger, Cameroon and Mali, and to which he lends the name of his best-known character for the Aminata Fund, which supports programs for girls and women in Africa. Hill sits on the advisory committee of the Centre for Community—Engaged Narrative Arts in Hamilton, Ontario. His earlier volunteer work has included serving The Black Loyalist Heritage Society, Book Clubs for Inmates, Project Bookmark Canada, The Ontario Black History Society. He continues to support and serve as a volunteer for The Writers’ Trust of Canada and the Writers’ Union of Canada.

Hill graduated from the University of Toronto Schools in 1975. He served as school captain in his final year. He has a BA in economics from Laval University in Quebec City and an MA in writing from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He has received honorary doctorates from 10 Canadian universities. 

A Member of the Order of Canada, he lives with his wife Miranda Hill, also a writer, in Hamilton, ON and in Newfoundland.

McKenna _Centre

Start Your Journey