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Edward Ricardo Braithwaite (born June 27, 1920 in Georgetownmarker, Guyanamarker) is a Guyanese novelist, writer, teacher, and diplomat, best known for his stories of social conditions and racial discrimination against black people.

Braithwaite had a privileged beginning in life: both his parents went to Oxford Universitymarker 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 Yorkmarker (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 Cambridgemarker (1949), from which he earned a bachelor's degree and a doctorate in physics.

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 Londonmarker. The book To Sir, With Love (1959) was based on his experiences there. His version of events at the school is contested by a former pupil, in Alfred Gardner's autobiography An East End Story (Gardner, London 2002).

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 harrowing 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 of the same name starring Sidney Poitier, and adapted for Radio 4 in 2007 starring Kwame Kwei-Armah. Paid Servant was dramatised on Radio 4 the following year, again with Kwei-Armah in the lead role.

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 (The Bodley Head, Ltd. Great Britain 1975).

Braithwaite continued to write novels and short stories throughout his long international career as an educational consultant and lecturer for UNESCOmarker; permanent representative to the United Nations for Guyana; Guyana's ambassador to Venezuelamarker; and academic. He taught English studies at New York Universitymarker; in 2002, was writer in residence at Howard Universitymarker, Washington, D.C.marker; associated himself with Manchester Community Collegemarker, Connecticutmarker, during the 2005-2006 academic year as visiting professor, also serving as commencement speaker and receiving an honorary degree.

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Notes

  1. Manchester, CT, Community College News Archive, February 3, 2006
  2. Modern English, 1980, vol. 1, p. 115
  3. Modern English, 1980, vol. 1, p. 115
  4. Onyekachi Wambu, 1998, p. 4
  5. BBC 7 listing for 17/18 Oct 2008
  6. Manchester, CT, Community College News Archive, February 3, 2006


References

  • Modern English for teacher students (1980). Berlin, Volk und Wissen.
  • Onyekachi Wambu (1998), Black British Literature since Windrush. BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/modern/literature_04.shtml, retrieved: 2008-12-05)
  • BBC 7 listing for 17/18 Oct 2008 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00dztrb, retrieved: 2008-12-25)
  • Manchester, CT, Community College News Archive (February 3, 2006), Dr. Edward R. Braithwaite author of “To Sir, With Love” Named Visiting Professor at MCC. (http://www.mcc.commnet.edu/newsView.php?newsID=40, retrieved: 2008-12-05)



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