Erna Brodber was born 1940, to a farmer and an elementary school teacher in rural Jamaica. She attended high school and university in Kingston, Jamaica where at University College of the West Indies, London (later University of the West Indies [UWI]), she graduated with a BA(Hons) in History, an MSc in Sociology, and a PhD in History. She completed post-graduate work in the Anthropology Department at the University of Sussex and the department of Psychiatry at the University of Washington.
In her long career, Erna worked at the Department of Sociology and later the Institute for Social and Economic Research (now SALISES) at UWI, Mona. Erna was also a visiting professor at several universities in the US and Germany. Today, she is based in her natal village as an independent scholar working through the agency she founded called blackspace, which focuses on understanding the thought and philosophy of descendants of African enslaved in the New World, as well as on community development.
Erna is the author of several published research papers and 14 monographs—8 of which are non-fiction, 5 novels, and one collection of short stories. Her work has garnered awards from the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars, the government of the Netherlands, the government of Jamaica, the Institute of Jamaica, and the prestigious Windham-Campbell Award from Yale University in 2017.
She is currently working on a book tentatively titled, Out of Wales and into Jamaica: the Broadbers/Brodbers 1722-1922. Departing from Caribbean historical scholarship that has paid a lot of attention to planters, this work has led to a focus on sawyers, carpenters, and penkeepers; people likely to be of the lower middle class in Jamaica. Erna is currently seeking a publisher for a completed manuscript, a study in fiction and sociology called Man and Woman Story.