The writer Jan Carew, who has died aged 92, excelled at many careers in a life that encompassed academia, politics and the arts. For half a century he was one of the leading scholars in pan-African and Caribbean studies. His first novel, Black Midas (1958), set mainly in the Amazonian rainforest, explores themes of race and class in British Guiana (now Guyana) and makes significant use of folk myth and character (notably the pork-knocker, a small-scale prospector of diamonds or gold).
Carew's second novel, The Wild Coast (1958), had similar themes but was more autobiographical. A third novel, The Last Barbarian (1960), explored the experiences of a Caribbean student during the civil rights struggles in the US.
In 2009, his first two novels were reprinted, with covers featuring Carew's own paintings. While it may be for fiction that he was best known, it is Carew's non-fiction that exemplifies his political commitment as a self-defined socialist and pan-Africanist, who believed in the cultural unity of the black world. Carew travelled extensively and lived in Guyana, Trinidad, Ghana, Jamaica, Europe, Mexico and Canada, before settling in the US. In many ways a citizen of the world, he epitomised what he described as the Caribbean mind, "a mosaic of cultural fragments – Amerindian, African, European and Asian".
Born in the village of Agricola in British Guiana, Carew was the only son and middle child of Ethel Robertson and Alan Carew. He attended Berbice high school before continuing his education in the US at Howard University, Washington DC, and Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University), in Cleveland, Ohio. He also attended Charles University in Prague and the Sorbonne in Paris.
From the 1950s he was based in London, working as a journalist and writing for radio, as was the young VS Naipaul. "We would do broadcasts at the BBC and then go to a pub nearby," Carew recalled. He acted in the Laurence Olivier Productions stage company, appearing in plays by Shakespeare and Shaw in London and Liverpool, and at the Ziegfeld theatre in New York. In 1955 he held an editorial role on the Kensington Post.
A play, The Big Pride (written with Sylvia Wynter, whom he married in 1958), was adapted for television in 1961, after which he was contracted to produce further drama for Associated Television (ATV). Another of his plays, Exile from the Sun, was to be filmed with Sammy Davis Jr, Zia Mohyeddin and Leo McKern, but it fell victim to a strike at the ATV studios as rehearsals were about to begin. Since Carew left the country before the strike was over, the play was never performed
Carew taught race relations at London University and became the first editor of Magnet News, a black-oriented newspaper, whose launch in February 1965 was attended by Malcolm X days before his assassination. Carew's 1994 memoir, Ghosts in Our Blood, is subtitled "With Malcolm X in Africa, England and the Caribbean". Their interactions over that period in the UK led Carew to describe Malcolm's move towards a more internationalist view.
Carew found common cause with the anti-colonial and civil rights movements. As he put it, he was "completely dedicated to the world's have-nots … I am not interested in stirring up race hatred … but am interested in exposing it, analysing it and taking active steps to eliminate it."
Always maintaining his Caribbean links, Carew served in 1962 as director of culture in British Guiana under the Cheddi Jagan administration, and reported from Havana for the Observer on the Cuban missile crisis. In 1964, disillusioned after a visit to the USSR at the behest of the Soviet Writers' Union, he courted controversy from both left and right with his novel Moscow Is Not My Mecca. The following year, president Kwame Nkrumah invited him to Ghana, where he edited the Africa Review and served as an adviser to the president, until Nkrumah's overthrow in 1966.
In the latter part of the decade, Carew was involved with literary and black power activities in Canada, where he made TV programmes on art, poetry and literature. A period in Grenada in 1979 during the Maurice Bishop administration inspired him to write the popular history Grenada: The Hour Will Strike Again, which linked the Grenadian revolution to the island's struggles of previous centuries.
From 1969 onwards, Carew taught at many US universities, including Princeton, and he was emeritus professor of African-American studies at Northwestern University, where he taught from 1973 to 1987.
He was a regular reviewer for the New York Times Sunday Book Review and produced several other works, including the children's books The Third Gift (1975) and Children of the Sun (1980); a history entitled Rape of Paradise: Columbus and the Birth of Racism in the Americas (2006); and a collection of short stories, The Guyanese Wanderer (2007). In recent years, he began his memoirs; the first volume, Potaro Dreams: My Youth in Guyana, is projected to appear in 2013.
Carew is survived by Joy Gleason, whom he married in 1975, and their daughter Shantoba; his daughter Lisa from his marriage to Joan Mary Murray; son David from his marriage to Sylvia; four grandchildren and a great-grandson; and his sister Sheila. His older sister Cicely, the former wife of the novelist Wilson Harris, died in 1963.
• Jan Rynveld Carew, writer, born 24 September 1920; died 6 December 2012
Charles Hyatt was born in Kingston on February 14, 1931. His education up to age thirteen was carried out at several schools, which included Windward Road, St. Michael’s and St. Aloysius.
Hyatt entered amateur theatricals in 1946, when he joined the Caribbean Thespians-founded by Anthony Finn. After a successful tenure with the Caribbean Thespians, Charles was invited to appear in the 1950 Little Theatre Movement (LTM) Pantomime Production of Aladdin. He made eleven consecutive appearances until 1960/61; eight of which he appeared in as the dame.
In 1959, Charles joined the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) for the launching of a new radio station and was first among a list of early morning presenters. During his tenure at JBC, he created and presented what became a popular programme at the time, Here Comes Charley. In the same year, Charles was elected Actor of the Year and awarded a scholarship by the Arts Council of Jamaica and was granted a bursary by the British Council. He left for England in 1960 and was attached to Theatre Royal in Windsor for six months.
Following his attachment to the Theatre Royal, he was cast as a West Indian doctor in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) longest running radio serial Mrs. Dale’s Diary. After a nine-month stint with this production, he was cast in his first television production for the BBC entitled A Book with Chapters in it. Soon after, he was cast in a production called The Day of the Fox, which was written by Jan Carew for Commercial Television and which also starred Sammy Davis Jr.
In 1962, he was invited to return to Jamaica for a performance in Nuggets for the Needy, where he was once again afforded the opportunity to work with Sammy Davis Jr. His visit home was extended from two weeks to three months to allow him the opportunity to perform in the Independence Revival of the LTM’s Carib Gold. On his return to England, he ventured into the Off West End Production of Do Something Addy Man and realized new adventures in his professional career in Britain and Europe.
Over the next thirteen years he appeared and starred in several television, radio, stage and cabaret productions for the BBC, ITV, Grenada and London Week-end Television, BBC Home, Third Light and Caribbean Radio Services which featured productions such as Crown Court, Love thy Neighbour and Blood Knot.
During his theatrical career, he toured Britain and Europe with several productions for the Oxford Playhouse and other professional theatrical groups. His film career in England included High Wind in Jamaica, Crossplot, Bush Babies and Love Thy Neighbour. While in England, Charles made over 200 appearances on radio and over 50 on television.
Upon his return to Jamaica in 1974, he rejoined the JBC as the Head of the Department of Theatre and was also the producer and director of the popular radio serial Fortunes of Floralee. He was also the presenter of the Musical Show, Sunday Souvenirs. During this time he also appeared in several productions including McBeth, Two’s a Crowd, Sex, Brashanio, Mother Courage, The Mouse Trap, Old Story Time and Johnny Reggae. He also wrote, directed and produced plays which included The Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Jesus Christ Dem Kill Son Son, Curly Locks and The Seven DJ’s and Santa Fari. He also produced and directed the following for radio: Ritual: For a new Liberation Covenant and The Rope and the Cross.
Charles is also known for his book When me was a boy in which he gives readers insight into some aspects of Jamaican social life and customs. This book was published by the Institute of Jamaica in 1989. In 1977, he was awarded Actor of the Year for his performances in several productions, which he also produced and directed. In 1978, he was awarded a Silver Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica. In 1980, he was awarded the Institute Centenary Medal and a national honour – the Order of Distinction.
- Tribute to Charles Hyatt. Sunday Herald, January 7 – 13, 2007, page 18
- Charles Hyatt deeply ruled by his heart. Sunday Herald, March 26 – April 1, 2006.
- Tribute to Charles Hyatt. Sunday Herald, January 14 – 20, 2007, page 18.
- Charles Hyatt takes final bow. The Gleaner, January 2, 2007 page 1.
- Charles Hyatt was a class act. Observer, January 2, 2007, page 8.
- Charles Hyatt made it to Appollo! The Gleaner, August 30, 1996 page A4.
- Charles Hyatt: In the real drama of life. Flair Magazine, September 11 & 12, 1985
- Charles Hyatt takes final bow: revered actor dies in Florida. By Kerry McCatty. Daily Observer, January 2, 2007 pages 1 & 3. Hyatt’s
- long, distinguished career. Jamaica Record, July 12, 1989
- Charlie Strikes Again by Tanya Batson. The Gleaner, May 21, 2003 Section C
- Charles Hyatt Bio Data Charles Hyatt Reminiscences, Page 1- 4
- Here’s Charlie, Sunday Sun, April 6, 1980 page 3
- Tribute to Charles Hyatt: Comedian Extraordinaire. The Gleaner, February 4, 2007
- Charles Hyatt. The Star, June 21,
- 1974 Charles, Hyatt, Actor,
- Playwright. The Jamaica Daily News, December 12, 1976 page 34
- Here Comes Charlie – Again! Jamaica Daily News, December 2, 1973 page 22
- “…too preoccupied with Reggae.” Daily News, December 22, 1974 page 21.
- Actor extraordinaire man of many voices. By Verena Reckord. Sunday Sun, March 20, 1980 page 15-16.
- Charles Hyatt on the past. The Daily Observer, May 2, 2002.
- Here Comes Charlie! Part 2. Sunday Sun, April 6, 1980, pages 15 & 28
- Charley no longer a dame. The Daily Gleaner, December 24, 1960
- . Hyatt in London: Wonderful to work with professionals. Daily Gleaner, June 30, 1961
- Charles Hyatt’s ‘Book of Cartoons’ is launched. The Star, January 26, 1984.
- Charles Hyatt Gains unanimous praise in London Play. By Louis Marriott. The Gleaner, August 24, 1968 page 6
- The man ‘Preacher’ is Charles Hyatt. By Carol Grace Rose, Daily News. December 11, 1974, page 34.
- Hyatt, Charles – Awards Charles Hyatt for James Bond Film
- Charles Hyatt: Actor and comedian of highest calibre. By Clayton J. Goodwin. Daily Gleaner, March 23, 1970 page 6.
- When Me was a Boy. The Star, December 19, 1989, page 18.
- When Me was a Boy: book cover