E. R. Braithwaite

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E. R. Braithwaite photo taken by Carl Van Vechten, 1962

Edward Ricardo Braithwaite (born June 27, 1920; some sources state 1912[1] or 1922) is a Guyanese novelist, writer, teacher, and diplomat, best known for his stories of social conditions and racial discrimination against black people. He is the author of the 1959 autobiographical novel To Sir, With Love which was made into a 1967 film, To Sir, with Love, starring Sidney Poitier.

Braithwaite was born in Georgetown, Guyana.[2]

Life[edit]

Braithwaite had a privileged beginning in life: both of his parents went to Oxford University and he describes growing up with education, achievement, and parental pride surrounding him. He attended Queen's College, Guyana and then the City College of New York (1940). During World War II, he joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot – he would later describe this experience as one where he had felt no discrimination based on his skin colour or ethnicity. He went on to attend the University of Cambridge (1949), from which he earned a bachelor's degree and a doctorate in physics.[3]

After the war, like many other ethnic minorities, despite his extensive training, Braithwaite could not find work in his field and, disillusioned, reluctantly took up a job as a schoolteacher in the East End of London. The book To Sir, With Love (1959) was based on his experiences there.[4][5]

While writing his book about the school, Braithwaite turned to social work and it became his job to find foster homes for non-white children for the London County Council. His experiences resulted in his second novel Paid Servant (1962).

Braithwaite's numerous writings have primarily dealt with the difficulties of being an educated black man, a black social worker, a black teacher, and simply a human being in inhumane circumstances. His best known book, To Sir, With Love, was made into a 1967 film, To Sir, with Love, starring Sidney Poitier, and adapted for Radio 4 in 2007 starring Kwame Kwei-Armah.[6] Paid Servant was dramatised on Radio 4 the following year, again with Kwei-Armah in the lead role. His 1965 novel Choice of Straws was dramatised in Radio 4's The_Saturday_Play slot in September 2009.

In 1973, the South African ban on Braithwaite's books was lifted and he reluctantly applied to visit the country. He was granted a visa and the status "honorary white" which gave him significantly more freedom and privileges than the indigenous black population, but less than the whites. He recorded the experiences and horror he witnessed during the six weeks he spent in South Africa in Honorary White (London: The Bodley Head, 1975).

Braithwaite continued to write novels and short stories throughout his long international career as an educational consultant and lecturer for UNESCO, permanent representative to the United Nations for Guyana, Guyana's ambassador to Venezuela, and academic. He taught English studies at New York University; in 2002, was writer-in-residence at Howard University, Washington, D.C.; associated himself with Manchester Community College, Connecticut, during the 2005–06 academic year as visiting professor, also serving as commencement speaker and receiving an honorary degree.[7]

Publications[edit]

  • To Sir, With Love (1959)
  • Paid Servant (1962)
  • A Kind of Homecoming (1962)
  • Solid Lubricants And Surfaces (1964)
  • Choice of Straws (1965)
  • Lubrication And Lubricants (1967)
  • Reluctant Neighbors (1972)
  • Honorary White (1975)
  • Molybdenum, Vol. 19 (1994)
  • Hurricane Hits England (Preface – 2000)
  • Billingsly: The Bear With The Crinkled Ear (2008)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ May, Hal; Trosky, Susan M (1989). Linda Metzger, ed. Black Writers: A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors. Gale Research Inc. p. 65. ISBN 0-8103-2772-4. 
  2. ^ Manchester, CT, Community College News Archive, February 3, 200.6
  3. ^ Modern English, 1980, vol. 1, p. 115.
  4. ^ Modern English, 1980, vol. 1, p. 115.
  5. ^ Onyekachi Wambu, 1998, p. 4.
  6. ^ BBC 7 listing for Oct 17/18, 2008
  7. ^ Manchester, CT, Community College News Archive, February 3, 2006.

External links[edit]