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Overview for Jay Bressner
Jay Bressner

Jay Bressner


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With a long and prestigious career as a renowned author and respected diplomat, E.R. Braithwaite remained best well known for his acclaimed 1959 novel, To Sir with Love. Born in Guyana in 1912 to affluent parents, Braithwaite served in the Royal Air Force during World War II before earning his doctorate in physics from Cambridge University. Despite his prestigious education however, Braithwaite discovered that the distinct lack of racial discrimination he'd experienced in the military disappeared completely following the war. Being black rendered him totally unable to find employment in London as an engineer, and so he reluctantly took a job teaching in impoverished East London. His experiences there were so substantial that they inspired Braithwaite's first novel, To Sir with Love, which dealt with issues of both race and class. He eventually left his position as a teacher, taking a position as a social worker with the London City Council, where he helped find foster homes for the city's children of color. He drew on these experiences for his second book, a nonfiction account titled Paid Servant: A Report About Welfare Work in London. He would go on to publish more books tackling social issues, including the mystery novel Choice of Straws and the confrontational nonfiction account Honorary White: A Visit to South Africa, detailing the social issues he witnessed during his time in the country. Meanwhile, Braithwaite's career outside of writing would turn toward diplomacy, as he went on to work for the United Nations as a permanent representative to Guyana, a Guyana's ambassador to Venezuela, and as a lecturer for UNESCO. He also taught English studies at New York University. Braithwaite passed away in 2016 at the age of 104.

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