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, British Guiana (now 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)
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 27, 1912.[1][2] He had a privileged start in life: both of his parents had gone to Oxford University and he described growing up surrounded by education, achievement and parental pride. His father was a gold and diamond miner and his mother was a homemaker.[3] He attended Saint Ambrose Primary School, Queen's College, Guyana, and then City College of New York (1940).[4] During World War II he joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot. He later described this experience in To Sir, With Love as one where he had felt no discrimination based on his skin colour nor ethnicity.[5] He went on to attend Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (1949), where he earned a master's degree 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 title, starring Sidney Poitier. Although the film was a box-office success, many critics, and Braithwaite himself, considered it too sentimental. He also objected to the main character's mixed-race romance being given lower prominence in the film version.[10] In 2007 he said on a BBC Radio 4 programme, To Sir, with Love Revisited, written and presented by Burt Caesar: "I detest the movie from the bottom of my heart."[11][12]

While he was writing his book about the school Braithwaite turned to social work. It became his job to find foster homes for non-white children for the London County Council. This experience resulted in Paid Servant: A Report About Welfare Work in London, published in the UK in 1962.[4] Braithwaite continued to write novels and short stories throughout his long international career as an educational consultant and lecturer for UNESCO.

He was the first Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations from 1967 to 1969.[4] He was elected to the presidency of the United Nations Council for South West Africa in 1968. He later served as Guyana's Ambassador to Venezuela.[4][13]

In 1973 South Africa lifted its ban on Braithwaite's books and he subsequently visited the country. While there he was granted the status of "honorary white", which gave him significantly more freedom of movement than the indigenous black population but less than the whites, a situation he found detestable. He recorded the experiences he witnessed during the six weeks he spent in South Africa in his book Honorary White (London: The Bodley Head, 1975, ISBN 978-0370103570).[14]

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. He also served as the college's commencement speaker for that year and received an honorary degree.[15]

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 given a national award, the Cacique Crown of Honour, by then-President Donald Ramotar.[16]

In 2013, Braithwaite attended the first live performance of To Sir, With Love.[17] The production was written by Ayub Khan Din for the stage as part of Royal & Derngate, Northampton's Made In Northampton season. The play was directed by Mark Babych and starred Ansu Kabia in the title role and Matthew Kelly.[18] This was the first theater-adoption of the book.[19]

Personal life and death[edit]

Braithwaite lived in Washington, D.C.[20] 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][21]

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.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k 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.
  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.
  11. ^ Mahoney, Elisabeth (August 27, 2007). "Radio review: To Sir, With Love Revisited". The Guardian. London. Retrieved August 27, 2007.
  12. ^ "To Sir, With Love Revisited", BBC Radio 4Extra.
  13. ^ "'To Sir, With Love' Author E.R. Braithwaite Dies at 104". Kaieteur News. Georgetown, Guyana. December 14, 2016. Archived from the original on December 17, 2016. Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  14. ^ Kean, Danuta (December 14, 2016). "To Sir, With Love author ER Braithwaite dies aged 104". The Guardian. London. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  15. ^ Manchester, CT, Community College News Archive, February 3, 2006.
  16. ^ Staff (August 24, 2012). "National award bestowed on author E. R. Braithwaite". Stabroek News. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  17. ^ Fisher, Gillian. "E.R Braithwaite – interview -To Sir, With Love". Afridiziak Theatre News. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  18. ^ The List retrieved 2014-9-25
  19. ^ Fisher, Gillian (October 2013). "Ansu Kabia – interview - To Sir With Love". Afridiziak Theatre News. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  20. ^ Debra Eve (July 1, 2016). "The Late-Blooming Author of "To Sir, With Love" Just Turned 104". laterbloomer.com. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  21. ^ Denis Chabrol, "Guyanese author, educator and diplomat – E. R. Braithwaite dies", Demerara Waves, December 13, 2016.
  22. ^ a b c d "E R Braithwaite". British Library. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  23. ^ Braithwaite, E. R. (2014). Billingsly: The Bear With The Crinkled Ear. New York City: Open Road Media Young Readers. ISBN 978-1480457478.

External links[edit]