Peter Abrahams

Peter Abrahams was born in Vrededorp, near Johannesburg, in 1919. His Ethiopian father worked in the city’s gold mines; his mother was the daughter of a black African father and white French mother, thus classifying him as ‘coloured’. After his father’s death, Abrahams had an impoverished childhood, selling firewood and working for a tinsmith in the city’s slums, but won a scholarship to school, where he read voraciously and then became a Marxist journalist. In 1939, he left South Africa for a life in European exile, working aboard ship and at the Communist Daily Worker newspaper. In London, he befriended political activists including pan-Africanist George Padmore and two future heads of state, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. He also organised the Fifth Pan-African Congress as part of the ANC and met James Baldwin and Richard Wright in Paris. Abrahams’ trailblazing first book was published in 1942, followed by ten volumes of acclaimed fiction and autobiography dedicated to exposing racial injustice. He settled in Jamaica in 1956 where he lived until his death aged 97, writing and broadcasting radio commentaries; he was married twice, both to white Englishwomen, and had three children.