C. Everard Palmer is a Jamaica-born writer who has published many children's books. After earning a teaching diploma, he left his native country and settled in Canada, where he began working as a teacher in the 1950s. He began his writing career with the novel A Broken Vessel, and he followed it with his first children's book, The Adventures of Jimmy Maxwell. Palmer produced no further books until 1966, when he published The Cloud with the Silver Lining. This children's story, which concerns the efforts of two Jamaican boys to maintain the family's livelihood after their grandfather suffers an accident, was described by Mary Croxson in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers as "warm and gentle."
Since then Palmer has published several additional children's books set in Jamaica. Big Doc Bitterroot is the story of an incompetent physician who convinces ignorant villagers that he is an accomplished doctor, then inadvertently exposes his own stupidity by prescribing the wrong cure to a patient. In The Sun Salutes You, two villagers vie for dominance in local trucking, while in The Hummingbird People members of rival villages both launch plans to celebrate returning soldiers. "The 'jollifying' of their plans and counter-plans," according to Croxson, has the book "humming with exuberance." In The Wooing of Beppo Tate Palmer emphasizes the comedic aspects of two courting couples, while in A Cow Called Boy disruption ensues when a child's pet calf accompanies him into his schoolroom. Among Palmer's further tales set in Jamaica are Baba and Mr. Big, wherein possession of a hawk proves crucial to an older man, and My Father Sun-Sun Johnson, in which a youth builds a life together with his father after his parents end their marriage. Palmer's other writings include A Dog Called Houdini and Houdini, Come Home, two stories about a dog's escapades in northern Canada.
When asked about his writing, Palmer told CA: "Nothing has influenced my writing more than the farming village in which I grew up. It teemed with down-to-earth characters. There were laughs everywhere and in everything. Even in tragedy the people bubbled. They have provided me with several character models.
"The first draft of any story is written with a pen. After it has been edited I do a rough draft on a typewriter. The third and final draft is also done on a typewriter. Now that I have acquired a computer, the process might undergo some change, but the first draft will still be written with pen and ink. Of all my books, my favorites are The Cloud with the Silver Lining, A Cow Called Boy, and My Father Sun Sun Johnson."
The principal scholarly challenge of writer and educator Orlando Patterson is to understand the process by which institutions such as slavery shape societal values and belief systems. While the Harvard University professor has used his sociological training to shed light on contemporary racial and ethnic issues, it is his exploration of the historical relationship between slavery and freedom that has brought him academic celebrity and in 1991 earned him a National Book Award, one of the most prestigious honors in American letters.
Orlando Patterson was bom on June 5,1940, in Westmoreland, Jamaica, the son of Charles A. Patterson, a local police detective, and Almina Morris Patterson, a dressmaker. He grew up during the time when the national decolonization movement was gaining momentum—Jamaica would see its independence from England in 1962—and was exposed throughout his early life to the effects that subjugation and imperialism had on Jamaica’s citizens. Although slavery had been abolished, the plantation system, which was still flourishing in Jamaica, revealed to Patterson the alternate faces of economic bondage that slavery manifested in the so-called civilized world.
“Once you’re on a plantation, the idea of where they originated is very strong,” Patterson commented in an interview with Contemporary Black Biography (CBB). “It’s a haunting quality. Slavery did not exist, but you were very much aware of it.” Signs of English imperialism could be found everywhere, he recalled, including in the celebrations of national holidays when “Hail Britannia,” the British national anthem, would be played alongside the Jamaican national anthem. Still, in keeping with a theory he would later explore as an academic, the very subordination that Jamaican nationalists were decrying was feeding a growing commitment to freedom in the form of personal liberty and political independence. “Freedom was definitely in the air,” Patterson told CBB. “I was really coming of age when the country was coming of age.”
After attending Kingston College—modeled on an Anglican grammar school—in Jamaica’s capital city, Patterson was awarded a scholarship to attend the University of the West Indies, where he earned a degree in economics in 1962. Acutely aware that he was one of the few Jamaicans to attend the university, Patterson became politically active, debating what type of constitution the soon-to-be
independent country should adopt and, on a more theoretical level, nurturing a growing interest in cultural decolonization— the ways in which a people adapt on a collective, psychological scale to newly granted political freedom.
Ironically, it was in England, the country that colonized Jamaica, that Patterson began the vigorous introspection and scholarship that would forge his mature views of the link between slavery and freedom. Running in the London literary circles of West Indian expatriates, Patterson found an intellectual resource in existentialism, the philosophical doctrine that explores the nature of human existence with an emphasis on free will. His first novel, 1964’s Children of Sisyphus, was inspired by existentialist writer Albert Camus and concerns slum dwellers in Patterson’s native Kingston.
While studying at the London School of Economics on a scholarship, Patterson learned the tenets of historical sociology, which enabled him to write his dissertation— later published as his first academic book—on the history of slavery in Jamaica. After receiving his doctorate in 1965, Patterson was appointed to the faculty but remained only two years, as he was interested in returning to Jamaica to participate in the spiritual rebuilding of his homeland.
Once back at his alma mater in Kingston, Patterson continued his historical research as well as his sociological work on the problems endemic to burgeoning Kingston slums. But the social activist in him became increasingly disillusioned and frustrated with the conservative Jamaican government. “They were getting into debt with Mickey Mouse development.” Patterson commented to CBB. “The government was very materialistic and the inequalities among the people were getting greater and greater.” Although he would become an adviser to future Jamaican governments, his various reports on urban poverty and the island-nation’s sugar industry would be undertaken as an expatriate at Harvard University in Massachusetts, where he was a visiting associate professor in 1970 and became a tenured professor the following year.
Education: University of the West Indies, B.S., 1962; London School of Economics, Ph.D., 1965. London School of Economics, England, assistant lecturer, 1965-67; University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica, lecturer, 1967-70; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, visiting associate professor, 1970-71, Allstan Burr senior tutor, 1971-73, professor of sociology, 1971—, acting chairman, department of sociology, 1989-90. Member of Technical Advisory Council, Government of Jamaica, 1972-74; special adviser to the Prime Minister of Jamaica on social policy and development, 1972-79; visiting member of Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, 1975-76; visiting scholar, Akedemie Der Literatur (Mainz) and Universtat Trier, Germany; Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Professor, 1988-89.
Selected awards: Jamica Government Exhibition scholar, University College of the West Indies, 1959-62; Commonwealth scholar, Great Britain, 1962-65; award for best novel in English, Dakar Festival of Negro Arts, 1965; Guggenheim fellow, 1978-79; Walter Channing Cabot Faculty Prize, Harvard University, 1983; cowinner of Ralph Bunche Award for best scholarly work on pluralism, American Political Science Association, 1983; Distinguished Contributor to Scholarship Award (formerly Sorokin Prize), American Sociological Association, 1983; National Book Award for nonfiction, 1991, for Freedom in the Making of Western Culture.