Written by Chantel DaCosta

Caribbean Writers – E. Kamau Brathwaite – Barbados


Photo credit: New Directions Publishing

“Helpless like this

Leader –

Less like this,


We met you: lover,

Warrior, hater,

Coming through the flies

Of the forest

Soft foot

To soft soil

Of silence:

Wet met in the soiled tunnel of leaves.”

From the poem New World A Comin’, The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy – Rights of Passage, Masks and Islands by Kamau Brathwaite, 1973.


Birth Name: Lawson Edward Brathwaite

Place of Birth: Bridgetown, Barbados.

Born: 11 May 1930

Kamau Brathwaite is a prolific Barbadian poet, playwright and academic, widely considered one of the major voices in the Caribbean literature.

Braithwaite attended Harrison College in Bridgetown in 1945.  In 1949, he won the Barbados Island Scholarship to attend Cambridge University, where he studied English and History. In 1968, Brathwaite completed a PhD at the University of Sussex. From 1955 to 1962, he was employed as an officer in the Ministry of Education of Ghana.

Later in 1963, Brathwaite returned to Caribbean and taught the University of the West Indies (UWI) in St. Lucia and Jamaica. Three years later, in 1966, he co-founded the organisation of the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM) from London. CAM focused on the works being produced by Caribbean writers, visual artists, poets, dramatists, film makers, actors and musicians.



Brathwaite’s first three poetry collections published from 1967 to 1969 established him as a critical success and major talent in the literary scene.  This autobiographical poetry trilogy was later collected and republished as The Arrivants in 1973.

In 1971, he launched Savacou, a journal of CAM, at UWI, Mona. In 1992, Brathwaite was appointed Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University. And a decade later, in 2002, he was given an honorary doctorate from the the University of Sussex. Furthermore, in 2006, he was  awarded a Musgrave Gold Medal by the Institute of Jamaica.

Brathwaite is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at New York University and currently resides in Cow Pastor, Barbados.


Noted Works


  • The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy: Rights of Passage-Masks-Islands, Oxford University Press, 1973
  • Other Exiles, Oxford University Press, 1975
  • Sun Poems, Oxford University Press, 1982
  • X/Self Oxford University Press, 1987
  • Middle Passages Bloodaxe Books, 1992
  • Trenchtown Rock, Lost Roads Publishers, 1993
  • Words Need Love Too, Salt Publishing, 2000
  • Ancestors, New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2001
  • Slow Horses, Wesleyan University Press, 2005
  • Elegguas, Wesleyan University Press, 2010



  • Odale’s Choice, 1967


  • Folk Culture of the Slaves in Jamaica, New Beacon Books Ltd, 1970
  • The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica 1770–1820, Oxford University Press, 1971
  • Contradictory Omens: Cultural Diversity and Integration in the Caribbean, Savacou Publications, 1974
  • Our Ancestral Heritage: A Bibliography of the Roots of Culture in the English-speaking Caribbean, Savacou Publications, 1976
  • Barbados Poetry: A Checklist: Slavery to the Present, Savacou Publications, 1979
  • Jamaica Poetry: A Checklist: Slavery to the Present, Jamaica Library Service, 1979
  • History of the Voice: The Development of Nation Language in Anglophone and Caribbean Poetry, New Beacon Books Ltd, 1984


Accolades and Awards

1970: Cholmondeley Award

1983: Guggenheim Fellowship

1983: Fulbright Fellowship

1987: Companion of Honour of Barbados (CHB)

1994: Neustadt International Prize for Literature

1999: Charity Randall Citation for Performance and Written Poetry from International Poetry Forum

2002: Honorary doctorate, University of Sussex

2006: Griffin Poetry Prize, International Winner

2006: Gold Musgrave Medal for Literature from the Institute of Jamaica

2010: W. E. B. Du Bois Award

2011: Casa de las Americas Premio

2015: Robert Frost Medal from Poetry Society of America


Sources: New York University, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Jamaica Observer, Jamaica Information Service, NGC Bocas Lit Fest


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