Remembered as titan of Caribbean Literature by
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley
With the passing of Dr. Kamau Brtaithwithe on February 4, the Caribbean lost one of its literary giants.
The Barbados-born poet and academic distinguished himself with a body of work that includes over 50 books of poetry, plays, essays and novels.
He also taught extensively in Ghana, the University of the West Indies and at New York University where he was professor of Comparative Literature.
In a spectacularly gilded career, Dr. Braithwaite earned some of the most prestigious international awards for his contributions as a historian, poet and philosopher.
In 1994 he was the recipient of the the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which is awarded by the University of Oklahoma and its international literary publication World Literature Today, and is considered one of the more esteemed international literary prizes, often compared with the Nobel Prize in Literature.
He won over other nominees that included literary greats such as Toni Morrison, Norman Mailer and the Nigerian heavyweight Chinua Achebe.
Also, a few months before his death, Braithwaite was bestowed with the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters in recognition of his contribution as a literary critic, literary activist, editor, and author on topics of Caribbean literature.
Born in Bridgetown, Braithwaite was a Harrison boy, distinguishing himself at the prestigious high school in Barbados and winning a Barbados Island Scholarship that led him to the University of Cambridge in England where he studied English and History.
He also came away with a diploma in Education that served him well in his early career as an educator in Ghana between 1955 and 1962.
He moved back to the Caribbean and taught for a while in the History department at UWI before completing his PhD. at the University of Sussex in 1968.
His literary works that extended from his days at Harrison College and throughout his life was threaded together by his uncompromising commitment to the development and empowerment of the Caribbean and Africa.
In recognition of that unwavering commitment, in 2006 the Institute of Jamaica awarded him the Musgrave Gold Medal, the only person to receive the distinction that year, with eight silver and bronze medals going to other recipients.
Dr. Braithwaite published his seminal work “The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy,” in 1973. Then in 2006, his books of poetry included “Born to Slow Horses” won him the Griffin International Poetry Prize.
He died at his home in Barbados. Dr. Braithwaite was 89 years-old and is survived by his son, Michael, his second wife Beverly Reid, his sister, Joan, and a granddaughter.