Literary figures

Sol T Plaatje – A life in letters

2022-07-19T09:16:11+00:00December 14th, 2020|

Sol Plaatje (1876–1932) was one of the best known political and literary figures of his generation – as journalist, writer and spokesman for his people. He spoke out against the oppressive policies of the South African government in the early decades of the twentieth century, and he is remembered for a number of important books – one of which is the diary he kept during the siege of Mafikeng, Native Life in South Africa (1916).

From Cattle-herding to Editor’s Chair: The Unfinished Autobiography of Richard Victor Selope Thema

2020-09-04T06:32:30+00:00July 24th, 2016|

Richard Victor Selope Thema (1886 - 1955) was one of the most influential black figures in South Africa in the twentieth century - yet little has been published about him until now. 'RV' - as he was known to his friends - was a leading member of the ANC for almost forty years from 1912, serving for many years on its National Executive. He was also a founder member of the All-African Convention, a elected member of the Natives Representative Council, and was in constant demand to serve on deputations and committees as one of the leading spokespersons for Africans of his generation. Thema was also widely recognised as the leading black journalist and intellectual of his time. Many of his early writings appeared in the ANC newspaper, Abanthu Batho, but he cemented his national reputation as founding editor of the Bantu World, a position he held for twenty years. Under his leadership, Bantu World became the leading organ of the black middle class in South Africa, and a generation of black writers launched their careers in its pages under his tutelage. It is still published today as the Sowetan. In his writings Thema was a tireless advocate of African rights and an implacable enemy of segregation. An 'Africanist' before that term was popularised by the Congress Youth League in the 1940s and 1950s, he can be considered an intellectual fore-father of both the Youth League and of the Pan-Africanists of the 1950s.

The World’s Great Question. Olive Schreiner’s South African Letters 1889-1920

2021-07-26T19:36:54+00:00July 24th, 2014|

The World’s Great Question features over 300 of Olive Schreiner’s key letters on South African people, politics and its racial order. They are often prophetic and can still send shivers down the spine. Immensely readable and insightful, her South African letters bring home Schreiner’s importance as one of the world’s most famous women and a foundational figure in South African literature and its political life at key junctures in its history;

The South African Letters of Thomas Pringle

2020-08-11T20:58:07+00:00November 24th, 2011|

Thomas Pringle (1789–1834) is remembered as ‘the father of English poetry’ in this country, as leader of the only Scottish settler party in 1820 and as a champion of the freedom of the press. He had an earlier career as founding editor of Blackwood’s Magazine in Edinburgh and a later one as man of letters in London and secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society. The abolition of slavery in the British Empire came into force in August 1834 but, crippled since infancy and suffering from tuberculosis, he died in December 1834, aged only 45. In South Africa he worked for the relief of the hard-pressed settlers, the emancipation of the Khoisan and protection of the Xhosa on the frontier from retaliatory commando raids. In Cape Town he ran the South African Public Library, edited, with his friend John Fairbairn, the Cape’s first independent newspaper and the bi-monthly South African Journal, and established a successful ‘classical and commercial academy’ until all were brought down by the hostility of the Governor, Lord Charles Somerset. He fought back but, financially ruined, returned to his final career in Britain. His papers, sent to Cape Town by his widow Margaret, were lost but surviving letters in other collections here bring to life the character, outlook and South African career of a notable figure in our history.

Alan Paton Selected Letters

2021-02-25T19:55:16+00:00July 24th, 2009|

Alan Paton was a dedicated letter-writer whose letters are almost like a series of vigorous conversations, displaying his capacity for friendship, his lively personality and his principled commitment to South African society. This collection of 350 previously unpublished letters are a major aspect of his writings. They range from those written as a brilliant student of 18 to his old age, illustrating many of the facets of his literary interests, his work as a teacher and reformatory principle and his political activism.

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