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Charles H. Martin

Communist organizer and political prisoner, was born in the tiny southern Ohio town of Wyoming, the son of Paul Herndon, a coal miner. His mother, Harriet, was of a mixed-race background and worked as a domestic. According to an early version of Herndon's autobiography, his name was recorded in the family Bible as Eugene Angelo Braxton Herndon. During Herndon's youth, the family experienced poverty, which grew worse after his father died. Fundamentalist Christianity helped family members endure such hard times, and at the age of nine Herndon underwent a deep religious experience and joined a local church. Shortly after he turned thirteen, Herndon and an older brother left home for Kentucky, where they worked in a coal mine for a while before heading farther south to Alabama.

Over the next several years Herndon found employment at various construction and mining sites in the Birmingham area though ...

Article

Hakim Adi

Early Nigerian nationalist, Pan‐Africanistwriter, and student politician born on 6 November 1884 in Lagos, Nigeria. He first arrived in Britain in 1905 and soon commenced his political activities, eventually giving up his studies at Edinburgh University. Omoniyi sent a series of letters to the British Prime Minister, Campbell‐Bannerman, and other British politicians, including the future Labour Party leader Ramsay MacDonald, demanding political representation for Africans in the colonies and opposing the military campaigns that were still being conducted in Africa.

In 1907 Omoniyi wrote a series of articles criticizing colonial rule in the Edinburgh Magazine and became the first African to write for the Independent Labour Party's Labour Leader. He also published several articles in the West African press. In 1908 his major work, A Defence of the Ethiopian Movement was published in Edinburgh and dedicated to The Right Hourable and Honourable Members of the ...

Article

Richard A. Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius

Central African educator, government minister, businesswoman, political prisoner, and reportedly the first African woman to run for president, was born Jeanne-Marie Ruth on 17 June 1937. She was the daughter of a French father and an African mother in Bangassou, a predominantly Nzakara region in the southeastern corner of the French colony of Ubangi-Shari (now the Central African Republic [CAR]). As a métis offspring of a French father, Jeanne Marie had privileged access to whatever French education was available in the region during the last two decades of colonial rule, which was particularly rare for Ubangian women at this time. In 1956, when she was only twenty-three years old, she became a monitor or supervisor for the educational system in the colony, which became an independent nation in 1960 This was certainly an exceptional position for a young woman to have at this time She remained active ...

Article

Peter Limb

Albert (Albie) Louis Sachs, a constitutional judge, lawyer, and human rights activist in the African National Congress (ANC), is an important figure in both South African law and the struggle for national liberation. He helped shift ANC thinking toward constitutionalism and played a central role in the crafting of a new democratic, nonracialist constitution. Sachs was born in 1935 in Johannesburg South Africa to Jewish parents his father Solly Sachs was a radical trade union leader whose revolutionary practices and involvement in strikes and politics had an impact on him from childhood He found nonracialism the norm at home his mother worked as a typist for ANC leader Moses Kotane As a law student Albie Sachs quickly perceived the anomaly of a justice system staffed by whites in a country in which the majority black population was denied even elementary justice Influenced by his parents activism and his ...

Article

Shane Graham

justice on the South African Constitutional Court, attorney and legal scholar, author, cultural critic, and human rights activist, was born 30 January 1935 in Johannesburg. The older of two sons born to Emil “Solly” Sachs, a trade union leader, and Ray Ginsberg, his full name was Albert Louis Sachs. Both of his parents were associated with the Communist Party in the 1920s; as Sachs wrote in his 1966 book The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs he grew up in a political home a home of books of ideas and of stimulating people His parents separated when he was young his father stayed in Johannesburg while Albie and his mother moved to Cape Town where she worked as secretary to Moses Kotane a leader of both the Communist Party and the African National Congress ANC Sachs attended South African College Schools an exclusive institution in Cape Town from which he ...

Article

Zarina Patel

Kenyan trade union activist, was born in Gharjak, a village now in Pakistan. His father, a carpenter of very modest means, migrated to Kenya in 1920 in search of better opportunities. Makhan Singh was a serious and brilliant student whose early childhood was influenced both by the Sikh religion and by the momentous social upheavals in India of that historical period. The Indian Mutiny of 1857, the brutal massacre of civilians in Jalianwalla Bagh in Amritsar, and Gandhi’s call for peaceful non-cooperation in the fight for freedom made deep impressions on him. His own family’s poor economic status drew him to Lenin’s October Revolution and the study of capital versus labor.

The fourteen-year-old Makhan Singh arrived in Kenya in 1927 and studied in a Nairobi school for the next three years Financial constraints denied him access to higher education and he started working in his father s printing ...

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Suryakanthie Chetty

prominent South African antiapartheid activist and wife of African National Congress (ANC) leader Walter Sisulu, rose to prominence on her own accord and was given the appellation MaSisulu, a mother of the nation.

She was born in rural Transkei in the Eastern Cape on 21 October 1918, the second of five children. She was the first in her family to attend school, beginning at a primary school in Tsomo district, followed by secondary school, and then Maria Zell, a Roman Catholic college. Her level of education set her apart from other young people in the impoverished area. Her older brother, for instance, was limited to herding livestock.

Her initial desire to be nun as a result of her early exposure to Roman Catholic doctrine at Maria Zell made way to a growing desire to be a teacher Her early ambitions however were dealt a severe blow by the ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Walter Sisulu, known for his commitment to studying and teaching while imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, was called by one of his African National Congress (ANC) colleagues “the organization’s encyclopedia in prison.” A mentor to younger members, such as Mandela and Oliver Tambo, Sisulu joined the ANC in 1940, after his impoverished Johannesburg childhood and his work in the country’s gold mines had introduced him to the injustices that black South Africans faced.

In addition to helping Mandela and Tambo complete their law studies, Sisulu also joined the two in the newly formed ANC Youth League, planning strategy and serving as its treasurer. Elected ANC secretary general in 1949 Sisulu played a key role in coordinating activities with other antiapartheid groups including the Communist Party of South Africa later renamed the South African Communist Party or SACP and the South African Indian Congress This work he ...

Article

prominent African National Congress (ANC) leader in South Africa, was born 18 May 1912 in Qutubeni village, Ngcobo, Transkei, to Alice Sisulu, domestic worker and daughter of a peasant farmer, and Victor Dickenson, a white clerk. Sisulu was raised as an African, having a rural childhood influenced by his grandmother, mother, and guardian uncle and village headman Dyanti Hlakula. Formal schooling at Manzana and Qutubeni mission schools ceased at Standard 4, aged fifteen, after which he migrated to Johannesburg, South Africa. Here he delivered milk to the mines, suffering assaults by a white employer and police. He then worked as a domestic, a sweeper, and a mine worker, where he experienced a strike and saw resistance to pass laws led by black Communists.

After visits home in 1929 and 1930 (for initiation), in 1931 he sought work in depression rife East London enduring bouts of unemployment but finding domestic ...

Article

Scopas S. Poggo

Sudanese rebel leader, was born into the Pojulu ethnic group of Central Equatoria in the Sudan. He started school in 1944. In 1946–1947 Surur studied at Yei Primary School, and in 1948 he joined Loka Intermediate School (the CMS Nugent School), where he spent three years. He was admitted into Rumbek Secondary School in 1951 and graduated in 1954. He was employed as a teacher by the Ministry of Education and taught at Atar and Malakal junior secondary schools in the Upper Nile Province. From Malakal he was sent to Bakt er Ruda Institute of Education in Khartoum, where he was trained as a teacher for three years. He taught at Busere, Mondiri, Yambio, Tambura, Juba, Lainya, and Polataka intermediate schools.

Surur was named chairman of the Southern Front in Juba in the 1960s. During the Juba massacre of 8-9 July 1965 the Arab soldiers targeted him ...

Article

third president of postapartheid South Africa, was born 12 April 1942 in Nkandla, the eldest son of Nobhekisisa Zuma and his second wife, Geinamazwi. His father was a policeman, who died when Zuma was about four years old; his mother was a domestic worker in Durban. During his humble upbringing in this poor area of Zululand (part of what is now KwaZulu-Natal), Zuma was animated by stories of Chief Bambatha’s rebellion against colonialism that had taken place only thirty-six years before Zuma’s birth. Never formally schooled—working instead as a herd boy from a young age—Zuma attained some education by paying an older girl in his village to tutor him.

Influenced by a politically active half brother and by the activism he encountered on visits to his mother in Durban Zuma joined the African National Congress ANC at seventeen His earliest activities related to the South African Congress of Trade Unions ...