Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 24th 2015 Contents A31
Friday, April 24, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
• From Page A30
The move wasn t just philosophical. Jerome s personal
life became involved with poor, working class people
(often through his relationships with women, and the
children they had with him), in so doing, apparently
turning his back on his middle class upbringing. He chose
to understand the poor in a very direct way, and also
entered the world of gambling, alcohol, and the rough,
tough male culture that sponsored this, said Prof Ram-
His McGee court columns quietly subverted the myth
of faceless, undeserving black people, so common at that
time of institutionalised racism in T&T.
"He wanted to cross the line between rich and poor,
black and Indian or half-Indian, and Spanish, and so on,"
said Prof Rampersad, "...the lines that, from his point of
view, disfigured Trinidad society."
Influenced by Runyon
An early influence on Jerome s writing style was Damon
Runyon (1880-1946), a tough-talking, hard-smoking,
sports-loving, heavy-drinking American newspaperman
and the author of short stories. Runyon s characters were
of the Brooklyn demi-monde, tales of gamblers, hustlers
and gangsters, and he used a vernacular style mixing
formal English with colourful street slang. Runyon s stories
seemed to be born of a cynical vision that all life was a
gamble, and only the toughest survived. This rubbed off
on Jerome s writing approach, said Prof Rampersad.
By 1947, Jerome was living a fully double life, noted
the professor---straddling the worlds of both middle class
"Jerome was born middle class but grew into a rebel
against that class while holding on to it at the same time,
in certain ways," summed up Prof Rampersad.
The hardscrabble, precarious nature of T&T journalism
for those workers under the thumbs of the media bosses
emerged from the lecture, as Prof Rampersad mentioned
how his father, towards the end of his career, tried to
form a trade union for all journalists.
Jerome died in 1978, close to destitution, said Prof
Rampersad. But his column lived on through other ghost
writers who were delighted to take up the mantle of
McGee, as they respected and admired the tradition Jerome
Rampersad had begun.
• NOTE: In the Monday, April 20 story, 'Ramchand
calls for urgent digitisation of crumbling records,' it was
stated the Evening News was published from 1935 to
1989. Kelvin Choy, who was senior subeditor of the
Evening News, advises that the paper was printed right
up to July 27, 1990, the day of the coup.
Prof Arnold Rampersad is the
Sara Hart Kimball Professor
Emeritus in the Humanities at
Stanford University. Born in
Trinidad, he attended Belmont
Boys' Intermediate School and
then St Mary's College. After
teaching for a year at Fatima
College, (1960-1961), he joined
Radio Guardian (610 Radio) as an
announcer, and worked briefly in
the Prime Minister's Office.
In 1963, he moved to Barbados
where he joined Barbados
Rediffusion as a newscaster. In
1965, he left for the US on a partial
scholarship from the US State
He is a graduate of Bowling
Green State University in Ohio,
and Harvard University, where he
earned his PhD in English and
American Literature in 1973. A
retired member of the Department
of English at Stanford, his books
include The Art and Imagination of
WEB Du Bois; The Life of
Langston Hughes (two volumes);
Days of Grace: A Memoir, co-
written with Arthur Ashe; Jackie
Robinson: A Biography; and Ralph
Ellison: A Biography.
A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in
biography and for the National
Book Award in non-fiction prose,
he has won fellowships from the
John D and Catherine T
MacArthur Foundation, the JS
Guggenheim Foundation, the
American Council of Learned
Societies, the Rockefeller
Foundation, and the National
Endowment for the Humanities.
He has also been awarded the
National Humanities Medal,
presented by President Obama at
the White House in 2011, and the
Graduate School of Arts and
Sciences Medal for contributions
to society, from Harvard
WHO IS PROF ARNOLD RAMPERSAD?
'Jerome chose to understand poor in a direct way'
Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration Rodger Samuel, right, inducts T&T-born, retired Stanford University Professor
Arnold Rampersad as a Distinguished Friend of Mr Biswas on April 16, at the National Library Building, Hart and Abercromby streets,
Port-of-Spain. PHOTO: ANDRE ALEXANDER
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