Andrew Salkey was born in Colon, Panama in 1928 of Jamaican parents. He was brought up in Jamaica by his mother and grandparents, his father remaining in Panama, but supporting the family financially. Salkey did not meet his father until 1960, and his work returns to the theme of mothers and sons frequently. He was educated at Munro College in Jamaica, left to attend the University of London in 1952, where he did a BA in English. He taught in school and worked as a broadcaster for the BBC on the Caribbean Voices programme. He was deeply involved in the Caribbean Artists Movement.
He published five adult novels: A Quality of Violence, Escape to An Autumn Pavement, The Late Emancipation of Jerry Stover, The Adventures of Catullus Kelly, Come Home Malcolm Heartland; two collections of short stories and four collections of poetry: Jamaica, In the Hills Where Her Dreams Live, Land and Away; eight novels for children; two important travel books: Havana Journal and Georgetown Journal (which records the first momentous Carifesta; and numerous groundbreaking anthologies of Caribbean writing in the 1960s and 1970s