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Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Many critics in the English-speaking Caribbean consider Edward Kamau Brathwaite the most important West Indian poet. Although Brathwaite is also a scholar and educator, he is best known for his poetry, which makes use of West Indian dialect and asks questions about roots and inheritance, matters of concern to Africans across the diaspora. (As Brathwaite puts it in one well-known line, “where is the nigger's home?”) Ghanaian author Kofi Awoonor has called Brathwaite “a poet of the total African consciousness.”

Brathwaite was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite in Bridgetown, Barbados, in 1930. He attended Harrison College, where he published his earliest work in the school paper that he and several friends cofounded. In 1949 Brathwaite won the prestigious Barbados Island Scholarship to Cambridge University in England, where he received a B.A. degree in history in 1953 and a certificate in education in 1955.

While at Cambridge Brathwaite published ...

Article

Richard Watts

Gilbert Gratiant, of mixed African and European descent, was born in Saint Pierre, Martinique. He grew up in a literary household that, unlike most mixed-race families in Martinique, did not attempt to hide its African roots. This consciousness of his heritage was evident in his earliest literary project: In 1926 he helped found the short-lived journal Lucioles, the first forum to explore the Franco-Caribbean literary identity of Martinique. But the moderate tone of this journal would earn Gratiant the scorn of René Ménil and Etienne Léro, two of the young editors of the journal Légitime Défense (first and only issue in 1932). They accused Gratiant of catering to the taste of the elite mixed-race bourgeoisie of Martinique. This episode would profoundly mark the rest of Gratiant's literary career.

Following World War II Gratiant wrote his most important poem in French, “Credo des Sang-Mêlé” (1950 ...

Article

Aninydo Roy

Commenting on the works of Wilson Harris, Jamaican novelist John Hearne said, “No other British Caribbean novelist has made quite such an explicitly and conscious effort … to reduce the material reckonings of everyday life to the significance of myth.” Born in New Amsterdam, Guyana Wilson Harris is the author of more than 25 books of fiction, poetry, and literary criticism. His most well-known works include the novels of The Guyana Quartet (1960–1963); The Four Banks of the River of Space (1990); the book of poems, Eternity to Season (1954, 1978 second edition); and the collection of essays The Radical Imagination (1992). He published his first volume of poetry, Fetish, while serving as a government land surveyor in Guyana in 1951. Palace of the Peacock, the first novel of The Guyana Quartet, appeared in 1960 and ...

Article

Peter Fraser

One of the most influential figures in promoting the intellectual and artistic life of the Black diaspora during the first half of the 20th century. He was especially interested in the visual arts but also encouraged black dramatists.

Locke was born in Philadelphia, graduated from Harvard University in 1907, and then attended Oxford University from 1907 to 1910 as the first black Rhodes Scholar. He then did advanced work in philosophy in Berlin before returning to the United States. He joined Howard University in 1912, only leaving to do his doctorate at Harvard. He then stayed at Howard until his retirement in 1952. He was the chief ideologue of the Harlem Renaissance and edited the influential anthology The New Negro (1925 in which he tried to lay out a cultural programme that would provide for African Americans a cultural and artistic life comparable to that ...

Article

Peter Hudson

Derek Alton Walcott, winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize for literature, is widely regarded as one of the most important writers to emerge from the English-speaking Caribbean. While other Caribbean writers have responded to what Patricia Ismond has called the West Indian “crisis of historylessness,” brought about by the devastating effects of slavery and colonialism, by searching for roots, Walcott celebrates the possibilities of the “newness” of the region. The figure of Robinson Crusoe recurs in his poetry and plays, exemplifying both the predicament of Caribbean isolation and the potential that isolation offers to West Indians for creating a vocabulary uniquely suited to the complexity and richness of their world.

For Walcott, the artistic legacy of classical Western civilization is integral to this creative process. At an early age, he “fell madly in love with English.” Born in Castries, Saint Lucia he became familiar with the Western canon through ...