E. R. Braithwaite

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E. R. Braithwaite
Braithwaite in 1962
Braithwaite in 1962
BornEustace Edward Ricardo Braithwaite
June 27, 1912 (1912-06-27)
Georgetown, Guyana
DiedDecember 12, 2016(2016-12-12) (aged 104)
Rockville, Maryland, U.S.
OccupationNovelist, writer, diplomat, teacher, pilot
Alma materCity College of New York (B.S.)
University of Cambridge (MSc, PhD)
GenreFiction, literature
PartnerGenevieve Ast

Eustace Edward Ricardo Braithwaite (June 27, 1912 – December 12, 2016), publishing as E. R. Braithwaite, was a Guyanese-born British-American novelist, writer, teacher and diplomat best known for his stories of social conditions and racial discrimination against black people. He was the author of the 1959 autobiographical novel To Sir, With Love, which was made into a 1967 British drama film of the same title, starring Sidney Poitier and Lulu.

Early life[edit]

Braithwaite was born in Georgetown, Guyana, on June 28, 1912.[1][2] He had a privileged beginning in life; both of his parents went to Oxford University and he described growing up with education, achievement, and parental pride surrounding him. His father was a gold and diamond miner and his mother was a homemaker.[3] He attended Queen's College, Guyana, a high school, and then City College of New York (1940).[4] During World War II, he joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot – he would later describe this experience in To Sir, With Love as one where he had felt no discrimination based on his skin colour or ethnicity.[5] He went on to attend Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (1949), from which he earned a master's degree and a doctorate in physics.[6][7]


After the war, despite his extensive training, Braithwaite could not find work in his field and, disillusioned, reluctantly took up a job as a school teacher in the East End of London. The book To Sir, With Love (1959) was based on his experiences there.[6][8] It won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.[9] To Sir with Love was adapted into a film of the same name, starring Sidney Poitier. Although the film was a box-office success, critical opinion and Braithwaite himself considered it too sentimental and he also objected to his mixed-race romance being given lower prominence in the film version.[10] He is quoted as saying in a 2007 BBC Radio 4 programme entitled To Sir With Love Revisited, written and presented by Burt Caesar, exploring the story behind the book: "I detest the movie from the bottom of my heart."[11][12]

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 Paid Servant: A Report About Welfare Work in London, published in the UK in 1962.[4]

In 1973, the South African ban on Braithwaite's books was lifted and he subsequently visited the country. While there he was granted the status of "honorary white" which gave him significantly more privileges than the indigenous black population, but less than the whites, an honorific he found detestable. He recorded the experiences and horror he witnessed during the six weeks he spent in South Africa in his book Honorary White (London: The Bodley Head, 1975, ISBN 978-0370103570).[13]

Braithwaite continued to write novels and short stories throughout his long international career as an educational consultant and lecturer for UNESCO, the first permanent Guyana representative to the United Nations (1967–69), and later Guyana's ambassador to Venezuela.[4] He taught English studies at New York University and in 2002, was a writer-in-residence at Howard University, Washington, D.C. He associated himself with Manchester Community College (Connecticut), during the 2005–06 academic year as a visiting professor. Therein he also served as the aforementioned educational institution's commencement speaker for that year and received an honorary degree.[14]

He turned 100 in 2012, and on a visit to Guyana in his capacity as the patron of the Inter-Guiana Cultural festival he was conferred on August 23 that year with a national award, the Cacique Crown of Honour, by then-President Donald Ramotar.[15]

Personal life and death[edit]

Braithwaite lived in Washington, D.C.[16] He lived with his partner, Genevieve Ast.[4]

Braithwaite died at the Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville, Maryland, on December 12, 2016, at the age of 104.[10][17]

Selected bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Manchester, Connecticut, Community College News Archive, February 2, 2006
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Michael Jordan (August 26, 2012). "'To Sir with Love Author' E. R. Braithwaite is a Special Person". Kaieteur News. Retrieved August 11, 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Chan, Sewell (December 13, 2016). "E. R. Braithwaite, Author of 'To Sir, With Love,' Dies at 104". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved December 14, 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Braithwaite, E. R. (2005). To Sir with love. London: Vintage. ISBN 9780099483694. OCLC 62088020.
  6. ^ a b Modern English, 1980, vol. 1, p. 115.
  7. ^ "Obituary: E. R. Braithwaite", The Sunday Times, News UK, London, December 15, 2016.
  8. ^ Onyekachi Wambu, 1998, p. 4.
  9. ^ "E. R. Braithwaite | To Sir, With Love", Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.
  10. ^ a b Italie, Hillel (December 13, 2016). "'To Sir, With Love' author E. R. Braithwaite dies at 104". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. Retrieved December 13, 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ Mahoney, Elisabeth (August 27, 2007). "Radio review: To Sir With Love Revisited". The Guardian. London. Retrieved August 27, 2007. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ "To Sir With Love Revisited", BBC Radio 4Extra.
  13. ^ Kean, Danuta (December 14, 2016). "To Sir, With Love author ER Braithwaite dies aged 104". The Guardian. London. Retrieved December 14, 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ Manchester, CT, Community College News Archive, February 3, 2006.
  15. ^ Staff (August 24, 2012). "National award bestowed on author E. R. Braithwaite". Stabroek News. Retrieved June 29, 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ Debra Eve (July 1, 2016). "The Late-Blooming Author of "To Sir, With Love" Just Turned 104". laterbloomer.com. Retrieved August 11, 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ Denis Chabrol, "Guyanese author, educator and diplomat – E. R. Braithwaite dies", Demerara Waves, December 13, 2016.
  18. ^ a b c d "E R Braithwaite". British Library. Retrieved December 17, 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  19. ^ Braithwaite, E. R. (2014). Billingsly: The Bear With The Crinkled Ear. New York City: Open Road Media Young Readers. ISBN 978-1480457478. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]