Afua Hirsch (born 12 June 1981) is a writer, broadcaster, barrister and human rights development worker. She has worked as a journalist for The Guardian newspaper and as the Social Affairs and Education Editor for Sky News until 2017.
Early and personal life
Afua Hirsch was born in Stavanger, Norway, to an English father and an Ashanti-Ghanaian mother, and raised in London. Her paternal grandfather Hans (later John), who was Jewish, fled Berlin in 1938. Her great uncle (originally Kurt) is the metallurgist Sir Peter Hirsch. Her maternal grandfather, a Cambridge University graduate, was involved in establishing the post-independence education system in Ghana, but later became a political exile.
Hirsch graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St Peter's College, University of Oxford, after which she took the Graduate Diploma in Law from BPP Law School. Sam, her partner, is from Tottenham and of Ghanaian ancestry. Their daughter was born in 2011.
Hirsch has worked in international development, law and journalism. She began working as a lawyer in criminal defence, public and international law. She then became a legal correspondent for The Guardian. She has lived in Britain and Senegal, and served as The Guardian's West Africa correspondent, based in Accra, Ghana. From 2014 to 2017 she was the Social Affairs and Education Editor at Sky News.
In August 2017, Hirsch called for Nelson's Column to be destroyed, claiming it is a symbol of white supremacism. Her comments caused substantial controversy. The former director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Sir Roy Strong, later called the comments "ridiculous", saying: "Well, listen, dear, that was about 1800. 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."
Hirsch's book Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging was published by Jonathan Cape in January 2018, to a range of reviews. David Goodhart in the Evening Standard argued that "Hirsch’s fluid definition of racism encourages victim status among minorities"; however, Bernardine Evaristo in TLS wrote of it as "a free-flowing book of ideas, experiences and analysis that reach far beyond the personal. The past and present are in conversation with each other as Hirsch interrogates the roots of racism and dismantles myths." For The Irish Times reviewer, "Hirsch’s cool, clear-eyed views in this book are a gift which we can’t ignore", while according to Kwasi Kwarteng in The Times: "Despite the persuasive arguments, Hirsch overplays the idea that Britain is a racist, dystopian nightmare." Colin Grant's review in The Guardian concluded: "The book’s critique of the vicissitudes of black life calls to mind one of its more potent precursors, Paul Gilroy’s There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack. Thirty years on from that academic work, it’s a depressing indication of continued British prejudice that Hirsch tells – with justified anger – similar tales of the miseducation of black boys and attempts to degrade black female sexuality. The power of her writing matches that of other important black writers, among them Gilroy and, going back two centuries, the American abolitionist John Brown Russwurm, who proclaimed: 'Too long have others spoke for us [such that] our vices and our degradations are ever arraigned against us, but our virtues pass unnoticed.'"