(Edward) Kamau Brathwaite was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, on May 11, 1930. He attended Harrison College in Barbados and graduated with honors from Pembroke College, Cambridge, England, in 1953. After working as an education officer in Ghana and teaching on the Jamaica campus of the University of the West Indies, he returned to England and received his PhD from the University of Sussex in 1968.
Brathwaite’s many books of poetry include The Lazarus Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2017); Elegguas (Wesleyan University Press, 2010); Born to Slow Horses (Wesleyan University Press, 2005); Ancestors (New Directions, 2001); Words Need Love Too (House of Nehesi, 2000); Black + Blues (New Directions, 1995); Roots (University of Michigan Press, 1993); and Trenchtown Rock (Lost Roads Publisher, 1993). He is also the author of two plays and several collections of essays and literary criticism.
The poet Adrienne Rich has said, “His dazzling, inventive language, his tragic yet unquenchable vision, make Kamau Brathwaite one of the most compelling of late twentieth-century poets.”
Brathwaite’s poetry traces historical links and events that have contributed to the development of the Black population in the Caribbean and is distinguished by its experimental linguistic (and often, multilingual) explorations of African identity in the West Indies. Brathwaite has received the Neustadt International Award for Literature, the Casa de Las Americas Prize for both Poetry and Literary Criticism, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. In 2018, he received the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. He was a professor of comparative literature at New York University and divided his time between Barbados and New York.
Kamau Brathwaite died at his home in Barbados on February 4, 2020.