The New York Times reported E. R. Braithwaite, a Guyanese author, diplomat and former Royal Air Force pilot whose book “To Sir, With Love,” a memoir of teaching in London’s deprived East End, was adapted into a hit 1967 film starring Sidney Poitier, passed away last month in Rockville, Md.
Sewell Chan writes:
“Mr. Braithwaite, who became a diplomat and represented Guyana at the United Nations and in Venezuela, wrote several books, many about racism in countries like South Africa and the United States, where he lived much of his life. But he is best known for “To Sir, With Love” (1959).
The book chronicled his efforts — as a courtly, Cambridge-educated military veteran who had been denied employment as an engineer because he was black — to motivate a group of unruly adolescents raised in a slum in early-1950s Britain, which was still slowly recovering from the austerity of the war years.”
Braithwaite wrote of America: “There, when prejudice is felt, it is open, obvious, blatant; the white man makes his position very clear, and the black man fights those prejudices with equal openness and fervor, using every constitutional device available to him.”
He added: “The rest of the world in general and Britain in particular are prone to point an angrily critical finger at American intolerance, forgetting that in its short history as a nation it has granted to its Negro citizens more opportunities for advancement and betterment, per capita, than any other nation in the world with an indigent Negro population.”
In the 1960s, Braithwaite served as a human-rights officer at the World Veterans Federation and UNESCO lecturer and consultant in Paris. From 1967 to 1969, he also served as the first permanent representative of Guyana to the United Nations. He was later the country’s ambassador to Venezuela.
In addition to his work as a writer, Braithwaite taught at Howard University, New York University and Florida State University.
He was 104.
Read the NYT obituary here.
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