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Achmat, Adurrazack  

Mandisa Mbali

antiapartheid, gay rights, AIDS, and human rights activist, was born in Johannesburg in South Africa. Adurrazack (“Zackie”) Achmat was of Cape Malay heritage. His father, Suleiman Achmat, was a member of the South African Communist Party and his mother, Mymoena, was a trade union shop steward. Achmat’s entry into politics began at the age of 14 with his participation in the 1976 student uprising. He was detained in 1977 for burning down his high school in Salt River to demonstrate his support for the uprising. Achmat obtained a bachelor of arts honors degree in English literature from the University of the Western Cape in 1992.

He spent much of the period between 1976 and 1980 in detention for his opposition to the apartheid system. It was also in this period that Achmat read the then-banned works of Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky and the progressive academic journal Work in ...

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Baard, Frances  

Iris Berger

South African labor organizer and women’s movement leader, was born in the diamond-mining town of Kimberley, the fourth of six children. Her father Herman Maswabi had come from Bechuanaland (now Botswana) to work on the mines and was a steward in the local Methodist church; her mother, Sara Voss, also Tswana, came from Kimberley. When her father’s brother and sister-in-law died, Baard’s family took in their children, and her parents sent her to stay with her father’s sister in Ramotswa, a village not far from Gaborone, where she was confirmed in the local Lutheran church. After Baard, then around eight years old, suffered serious burns in a cooking fire, her mother brought her back to the family home in Beaconsfield, just outside of Kimberley. She attended a Methodist school, learning in both English and Tswana. Shortly after she returned, her mother passed away during the 1918 flu epidemic.

When Baard ...

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Boesak, Allan  

Thiven Reddy

South African religious figure and antiapartheid activist, was born to Sarah and Willem Boesak in Kakamas, Northern Cape. When Boesak was young, his father, a teacher, passed away. His family moved to Somerset West, where, at age 14, Boesak became active in the Dutch Reformed Church. He studied at the Bellville Theological Seminary, graduating as a priest in 1967. He went on to obtain a doctorate in Holland at the Kampen Theological Institute and then returned to South Africa to assume an active role in the struggle against apartheid.

As leader of the Afrikaner-dominated Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), he was the major force in getting the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to declare apartheid a heresy in 1982 At the time that body had not questioned South Africa s membership or the supportive stand of the DRC and the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk NHK toward apartheid and the ruling ...

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Breytenbach, Breyten  

Kennedy A. Walibora Waliaula

South African painter, writer, poet, and antiapartheid activist, was born in Bonnievale in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. The third-born child in a family of five (four sons, and one daughter), Breytenbach was a twin, although his twin died at infancy. The Breytenbachs descended from the lineage of one Coenrad Breytenbach, a military officer of lower rank who arrived in South Africa from Europe in 1656 It is unclear whether Coenrad Breytenbach was Dutch or whether he had other European origins On the maternal side Breyten Breytenbach descended from the Cloetes of France However he would often downplay his European origins stressing instead his ties to Africa Two of his brothers were prominent figures in South Africa and had strong associations with the apartheid system Jan was a senior military officer while Cloete was a famous photojournalist Breytenbach s opposition to apartheid and Afrikanerdom made him something of a ...

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Dlamini-Zuma, Nkosazana Clarice  

Helene Strauss

antiapartheid activist, medical doctor, and South African politician, was born in KwaZulu-Natal on 27 January 1949, the eldest of eight children. In defiance of popular practice at the time, her father, a rural Catholic schoolteacher, insisted that she receive a formal education. She was sent to Adams College in Amanzimtoti (then called the Amanzimtoti Zulu Training School) where she completed high school in 1967. She earned her BSc with majors in zoology and botany from the University of Zululand in 1971, before moving to the University of Natal to work as a research technician and to study medicine. Here she became involved with student politics, working as an underground operative for the African National Congress (ANC), and, alongside fellow University of Natal student Steve Biko, serving as a member of the South African Students Organisation, to which she was elected as deputy president in 1976 the ...

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Duncan, Sheena  

Cynthia Kros

political activist and leader of the Black Sash organization in South Africa, was born in Johannesburg and educated at Roedean (in Johannesburg). She studied to be a domestic science teacher in Edinburgh. After a short spell in Southern Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe), she returned to South Africa and worked in the Social Welfare Department of the Johannesburg City Council as a home economics officer.

Her mother, Jean Sinclair, was one of the founders of the Women’s Defence of the Constitution League, an organization created to protest the National Party’s tampering with the constitution in 1955 in order to facilitate the passage of an act to disenfranchise Coloured voters. In 1956 the league changed its name to the Black Sash after the black sash its members wore from shoulder to hip at public protests to mourn the violation of the constitution Although the enabling Senate act was passed the membership of ...

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First, Ruth  

Ruth First’s parents were immigrant Jews from Lithuania. Born in Johannesburg, First joined the Communist Party of South Africa (later renamed the South African Communist Party) at an early age. As secretary of the Progressive Youth Council, a communist organization, she approached Nelson Mandela, one of the founders of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League, to ask for affiliation with the group but her request was rejected. She studied social science at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, and was an active supporter of the black miners’ strike of 1946. Beginning in 1947 she worked as a journalist. Three newspapers for which she wrote, the Guardian, Clarion, and New Age, were banned by the National Party government because they were critical of government policies. With activist Reverend Michael Scott, First visited South-West Africa (modern-day Namibia) in 1947 As an investigative journalist ...

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First, Ruth  

Judith Imel Van Allen

South African journalist, intellectual, and activist, was born Heloise Ruth First in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 4 May 1925. Her parents, Julius and Matilda (“Tilly”) First, emigrants from Latvia, were members of the International Socialist League and founding members of the Communist Party of South Africa in 1921. Ruth and her brother Ronald grew up in a household filled with intense political debate.

Ruth First received a BA in social studies in 1946 from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where fellow students included Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo, the future Mozambican national liberation leader Eduardo Mondlane, and future South African Indian Congress leaders J. N. Singh and Ismail Meer. She joined the Communist Party, helped found the multiracial Federation of Progressive Students, and served as secretary to the Young Communist League and the Progressive Youth Council.

In 1947 First became Johannesburg editor of the radical weekly newspaper the Guardian ...

Article

First, Ruth  

Peter Limb

Ruth First (1925–1982), radical-communist scholar-activist, political theorist, and journalist, was one of the most influential and independent radical writers on Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. Her 1982 assassination by apartheid secret police in Mozambique brought to an end a life of political activism and committed journalism and writing. But her contribution to African political thought lingered in her writings and in her championing of independent Marxist radicalism within African political economy.

Born in 1925 in Johannesburg of radical communist Jewish parents who had been cofounders of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), she first imbibed left-wing politics from within her family. At the University of the Witwatersrand (1942–1946), First became involved in radical politics through membership in the Federation of Progressive Students and Young Communist League. She soon joined the CPSA and actively supported the 1946 large scale strike of black ...

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Fischer, Bram  

Stephen Clingman

, South African lawyer and antiapartheid figure, was born Abram Fischer in Bloemfontein on 23 April 1908 to a distinguished Afrikaner family. His grandfather, Abraham Fischer, was a negotiator and delegate for the Orange Free State during the Anglo-Boer War, prime minister of the Orange River Colony after the war, and a member of the first Union cabinet of South Africa in 1910. His father, Percy, was judge-president of the Supreme Court of the Orange Free State; his mother, Ada, came from a prominent family of her own. In this context Bram Fischer realigned the anti-imperialism and Afrikaner nationalism he inherited, turning it toward a wider and more inclusive form of South African identity.

In Bloemfontein Fischer attended school at Grey College where he came under the tutelage of Leo Marquard founder of the National Union of South African Students NUSAS After a year at the University of Cape ...

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Fugard, Athol  

Kate Tuttle

Athol Fugard plays deal with the personal wounds inflicted by the strict policy of racial segregation known as Apartheid, which was law for many years in his home nation of South Africa. He is best known for his plays Blood Knot and Master Harold … and the Boys, which have brought images of life under apartheid to a wide audience.

Fugard was born near Middleburg, South Africa. The child of an English father and an Afrikaner mother, Fugard grew up in Port Elizabeth, the Cape Province city where most of his plays are set. He studied philosophy and anthropology at the University of Cape Town, but left school just before graduating to hitchhike the length of Africa. He spent the next two years working on a steamship.

Returning to South Africa in 1956 Fugard married Sheila Meiring an actress whom he credits for developing his ...

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Fugard, Athol  

Armando Pajalich

, South African dramatist, was born Harold Athol Lanigan Fugard in the small town of Middelburg in the semiarid South African Karoo to an Afrikaans-speaking mother and an English-speaking father. When he was three, the family moved to Port Elizabeth, where local industries and the port employed huge numbers of black laborers, who soon began a period of active resistance to exploitation and, later, apartheid. Fugard studied philosophy and social sciences at the University of Cape Town (1950–1953) but left before completing his degree to undertake an adventurous journey through Africa and to work on ships around the world. Thereafter, he gained employment in Johannesburg, working in offices distributing passbooks (1958). It was here that he discovered his passion for theater and the need to create plays and companies to stage the yet-untold stories of all peoples of South Africa.

After early experiments (No Good ...

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Gordimer, Nadine  

Marian Aguiar

In a 1965 interview, Nadine Gordimer assessed her political consciousness with a self-scrutiny that characterized much of her political writing: “I have come to the abstractions of politics through the flesh and blood of individual behavior. I didn’t know what politics was about until I saw it all happening to people.” In her novels and short stories, Gordimer has captured the “flesh and blood of individual behavior” in minute and sentient detail, chronicling daily life in South Africa under Apartheid and portraying the human face of resistance.

Gordimer grew up in a small gold mining town near Johannesburg South Africa the daughter of a Lithuanian Jewish father and an English mother Although she read voraciously as a child she was removed from school at age ten because of a perceived heart ailment and had little formal schooling Trailing her mother to afternoon teas the lively Gordimer spent her time observing ...

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Gordimer, Nadine  

Stephen Clingman

South African novelist, short story writer, essayist, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, was born on 20 November 1923 in the small gold mining town of Springs east of Johannesburg Both her parents were Jewish immigrants her father Isidore was a watchmaker and jeweler from the Lithuanian Latvian border her mother Nan came from England Her father with his foreign accent and ways was disparaged in the family he also absorbed the dominant racial models of the time while her mother took more readily to anglicized colonial mores Gordimer grew up in a nonreligious environment though she attended a convent school for the sake of its superior education Early on she was a dancer and sometimes a truant exploring the physical possibilities of veld and mine dumps with innate energy and relish At the age of eleven however her mother withdrew her from school on the putative ...

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Gordimer, Nadine  

Godwin Siundu

Much of Nadine Gordimer’s writing has been inspired by apartheid, once a political ideology and practice in her native South Africa. Apartheid as a system of social engineering was blatant in its exploitation of race as a basis of segregation and oppression, often grading people on the basis of their supposed intelligence or lack of it, borne solely out of their racial belonging. The struggles to implement this system by the Afrikaner political elite and the persistent attempts at resisting and subverting this system are what dominate the themes and style of Nadine Gordimer’s writings.

Nadine Gordimer was born to Isidore and Nan Gordimer 20 November 1923 in Springs, South Africa. She was schooled at the Convent of Our Lady of Mercy and studied for a year at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Among her earliest writings are Face to Face a collection of short stories that was ...

Article

Hani, Chris  

Kate Tuttle

At the time of his murder Chris Hani (born Martin Thembisile Hani) was second only to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela among popular antiapartheid activists, and his militant rhetoric made him the favorite of South Africa's disaffected young blacks. His 1993 assassination occurred at the height of the negotiations between the government and antiapartheid organizations and sparked days of rioting and violent government retaliation that threatened to disrupt the negotiating process—results that some felt reflected the assassins' goals. But the crisis instead proved the strength of Mandela's leadership, as the African National Congress (ANC) appealed for calm and continued the talks.

Hani, who was born in the bantustan, or “black homeland,” of Transkei and graduated from the University of Fort Hare in 1962, was a classics scholar turned freedom fighter. He joined the ANC Youth League in 1957 and in 1962 went into exile to join the ANC s newly ...

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Hani, Chris  

Meghan Elisabeth Healy

South African antiapartheid activist, was born Martin Tembisile Hani in the Transkei village of Comfimvaba on 28 June 1942. Hani was the second of three surviving sons born to Gilbert, a miner, and Mary, an illiterate peasant; three others died in infancy. Hani was precocious, learning to read from a schoolteacher aunt before he began attending local schools. Hani was also devout, serving as an altar boy and harboring dreams of the priesthood.

In 1956 Hani went to Lovedale school. Located near Fort Hare, the only post-secondary institution then open to Africans, Lovedale was founded a century before as an educational mecca for Africans. After a century as a Free Church of Scotland institution, however, Lovedale had just been nationalized. Beginning in 1956, Lovedale was subject to apartheid administrators set on making schooling a tool for “separate development.”

Despite its nationalization Lovedale remained one of the best schools ...

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Huddleston, Trevor  

Trevor Huddleston was ordained a priest in 1937 and entered the Community of the Resurrection Anglican order before being sent to South Africa in 1943. As deacon of the Anglican Missions of Sophiatown and then Orlando (outside of Johannesburg), Huddleston witnessed and protested against the injustices of apartheid. When the Native Resettlement Act of 1954 called for the destruction of Sophiatown to make way for a white suburb, he became chairperson of the Western Areas Protest Committee to support the blacks in defense of their homes. Despite his actions, Sophiatown was bulldozed in 1955 and the black residents were relocated to the black township of Soweto. Huddleston recorded the plight of Sophiatown in his 1956 book Naught for Your Comfort a condemnation of South Africa s policy of persecution He also worked with the African National Congress ANC to help bring about the Freedom Charter the ANC s ...

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Huddleston, Trevor  

Peter Limb

Trevor Huddleston, an anti-apartheid human rights activist and Anglican bishop, only lived in South Africa from 1943 to 1956, but his name became synonymous with the struggle against apartheid. In a career of political activism spanning fifty years, he combined devout Christianity with commitment to social justice in general and African liberation from colonialism and apartheid in particular.

Huddleston was born in Bedford, England, in 1913, to a father who was often absent from the family, serving as commander of the Royal Indian Navy. Huddleston’s deep attachment to Christianity originated with his mother. After studying at Oxford University and Wells Theological College, in 1937 he was ordained a priest and two years later joined the Anglican monastic order of the Community of the Resurrection which was involved in considerable missionary educational work in Southern Africa Raised in a comfortable lifestyle in Hampstead his initial pastoral work ...

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Joseph, Helen  

Susanne M. Klausen

teacher, social worker, and antiapartheid activist in South Africa, was born Helen Beatrice May Fennell in Sussex, England, on 8 April 1905. She grew up in London and graduated with a degree in English from King’s College, the University of London, in 1927. She taught at the Mahbubia School for girls in Hyderabad, India, from 1927 to 1930. After a serious horse-riding accident, she resigned and moved to South Africa in 1931 to take up a less demanding post at a school in Durban. Between 1942 and 1946 she worked full time as a Welfare and Information Officer in the South African Air Force, and during this period she learned a great deal about black South Africans’ extensive poverty. Consequently, after World War II, she trained as a social worker.

In 1951 Joseph became secretary of the Medical Aid Society of the Transvaal Clothing Industry In ...