Edward Ricardo Braithwaite, is a novelist, writer, teacher, and diplomat, best known for his stories of social conditions and racial discrimination against black people.
I inherited a few books from my late Uncle (may his soul rest in peace), one of which was To Sir, With Love by E.R. Braithwaite. I was immediately taken in by the book and that led to a beautiful and heart-touching journey through the many books of this talented writer. The narration will truly touch your heart.
Born in 1920 in British Guyana to a family of two Oxford-educated parents and four other siblings, he had a relatively easy and comfortable upbringing in the loving family.
He attended Queens College, an elite colonial school in British Guyana, and went on to study at City College in New York, before enlisting as a Royal Air Force pilot in England. He had always wanted a career in Engineering, so after returning he enrolled into Cambridge University to receive an advanced degree in Physics (1949). He also went to the University of London.
But fate was not on his side. Despite his great qualifications, he could not land himself his dream job. Time and again, his applications were rejected. This was his first encounter with racism. Frustrated and distraught after scores of rejections, he applied for a teaching position and to his surprise he was accepted!
It was at a predominantly white school in the East End London. Having grown up in British Guyana, where every white man was from the upper class, he was shocked to see the poverty-stricken whites of the East End. On top of it, his upbringing was in a very cultured family, and he hated those ragged, filthy kids. And the kids hated having a coloured person being in charge of them. His first day was rough. Needless to say, he was not too keen on the job but he was determined to see it through. Little did he know that this was going to alter the course of his entire life.
He later decides to pen down his experiences in “To Sir, With Love” which was published in 1959, and later made into a movie of the same name starring Sidney Poitier.
Braithwaite gave up his teaching career and became a social worker with the London County Council which worked to provide foster care for black children, the experiences of which he later describes in Paid Servant. He also wrote Honorary White, based on his experiences in apartheid South Africa.
Braithwaite continued to write novels and short stories, and also held numerous international positions, including educational consultant and lecturer for UNESCO, permanent representative to the UN for Guyana and Guyana’s Ambassador to Venezuela.
More than 10 years have passed but Braithwaite’s “To Sir, With Love” remains as one of my all time favourite books. And I would highly recommend this book (and others) to all the bookworms out here.
“As long as we learn it doesn’t matter who teaches us, does it?
– E.R. Braithwaite