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Black American Involvement in South Africa's Race Issue

  • Clement Tsehloane Keto


People of African descent in America occupy a singular position in relation to the race problems faced by Blacks in South Africa. Many Afro-Americans have had firsthand experience with the practice of race discrimination either in its blatant Jim Crow manifestations or in its more covert institutional forms. This common experience with race discrimination in South Africa and the United States makes it possible, for example, to correlate W.E.B. Dubois' description of the warring “double consciousness” of the black American made in 1903 with the expressions of frustration written by Albert Luthuli in 1962. This commonality also establishes a basis from which a meaningful assessment can be made regarding the historical role of black Americans in the race issue of South Africa.



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1 Dubois, W.E.B., The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches (Chicago: A.C. McLurg and Company, 1904), pp. 34. The statement originally appeared in an article in the August 1897 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. Luthuli, Albert, Let My People Go: An Autobiography (London: Collins, 1962), pp. 154-155, 160, 185-188.

2 Berghe, Pierre Van den, Race and Racism: A Comparative Perspective (New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1967), p.8.

3 Dubois, op. cit., p. 13.

4 Padmore, George, Pan Africanism or Communism with a foreword by Richard Wright and Introduction by Axinna Nwafor (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1971), pp. 9596. Lynch, Hollis R., Edward Wilmot Blyden: Pan-Negro Patriot 1832-1912 (London: Oxford University Press, 1970), pp. 250251. Shepperson, George, “Notes on Negro American Influences on the Emergence of African Nationalism,” Journal of African History, I, (1960), p. 303. Redkey, Edwin S., Black Exodus: Black Nationalism and Back to Africa Movements, 1890-1910 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969), p. 304.

5 Editorial, Star (Johannesburg International weekly ed.), October 14, 1972, p. 10.

6 Gibson, Richard, African Liberation Movements: Cohtemporary Struggles Against White Minority Rule (London: Oxford University Press for Institute of Race Relations, 1972), pp. 2829, 57-66. MacMillan, W. M., The Cape Colour Question: A Historical Survey (London: Faber and Gwyer, 1927), pp. 103108, 260-263. Rubusana, W. B., Zemk'inkomo Magwaldini (abridged ed. Lovedale: Lovedale Press, 1966), p. 104.

7 Thompson, Vincent Bakpetu, Africa and Unity: The Evolution of Pan Africanism with foreword by Basil Davidson (New York: Humanities Press, 1969), pp. 4245. Legum, Colin, Pan-Africanism: A Short Political Guide (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1962), pp. 2425.

8 Sundkler, Bengt Gustaf M., Bantu Prophets in South Africa (London: Lutterworth Press, 1948), p. 295. Joseph R. Coan, “The Expansion of Missions of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Africa 1896-1908” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Hartford Seminary Foundation, 1961), p. 16. See also Mzimba, Livingstone N., Ibali Lobomi Nomsebenzi Womfi Umfundisi Pambani Jeremiah Mzimba (Alice: Lovedale Press, 1923), passim and Bunker, Frederick R., “The Crisis in South African Missions,” Missionary Review of the World, XV (February, 1902), pp. 106107. See Cone, James H., “Black Consciousness and the Black Church,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 387 (January, 1970), pp. 5354.

9 Walshe, Peter, The Rise of African Nationalism in South Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), pp. 1, 25.

10 Coan, op. cit, p. 201. Jordan, Lewis G., Up the Ladder in Foreign Missions (Nashville, Tenn.: National Baptist Publishing Board, 1901), pp. 21101. Journal of the 20th Annual Session of the National Baptist Convention 1900 (Nashville, Tenn.: National Baptist Publishing Board, 1900), pp. 43-50, 191.

11 “Report of Secretary Jordan to the Foreign Mission Board” in Journal of the 24th Annual Session of the National Baptist Convention 1904, pp. 74, 77.

12 Coppin, Levi J., Observation of Persons and Things in South Africa 1900-1904 (Philadelphia: A.M.E. Book Concern, n.d.), p. 50.

13 Burnet, Amos, “Ethiopianism,” Church Missionary Review, LXXIII (1922), p. 13. Natal Mercury, February 15, 1906, p. 3; February 19, 1906, p. 7. Roderick Jones, “The Black Peril in South Africa,” Nineteenth Century, LX (May, 1904), pp. 714, 718, 723.

14 Colony of Natal, Evidence Given before the Lands Commission (1900-01- 02,) with Appendix (Pietermaritzberg: P. Davis and Sons, 1904), p. 49, and see H. E. McCallum to Secretary of State for Colonies, Pietermaritzburg, July 19th, 1906 in Parliamentary Papers, 1906, LXXIX (Accounts and Papers, Vol. 687), Cmnd. 3247. “Further Correspondence Relating to Native Disturbances in Natal,” pp. 28-29.

15 Tyler, Josiah, Forty Years Among the Zulus (Boston: Congregational Sunday School and Publishing Society, 1891), p. 176. Kiewiet, C. W. De British Colonial Policy and the South African Republics, 1848-1872 (London Longmans, Green and Co., 1929), pp. 8889. Eric A. Walker, “The Formation of New States 1835-1858” in The Cambridge History of the British Empire Vol. VIII, South Africa, Rhodesia and the Protectorates, Eric A. Walker, ed. (2nd ed., London: Syndics of the Cambridge University Press, 1963), p. 359.

16 Freeman, Edward A., The Epoch of Negro Baptists and the Foreign Mission Board (Kansas City: The Central Seminary Press, 1953), p. 201.

17 Zuid Afrikaansche Republieck, De Grondwet der Zuid Afrikaansche Republieck, door H. A. Ameschoft (Pretoria: Staats Drukkerij, 1894). art. IX.

18 See William W. Van Ness to Dr. Leyds, Lydenburg District, January 15, 1893, George F. Hollis to Josiah Quincy, Cape Town, May 9, 1893, Van Ness to Leyds, Johannesburg, September 18, 1893 and John Ross to Leyds, Johannesburg, September 16, 1893 in Consular Despatches, Cape Town General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59. National Archives Microfilm publications, T. 191, roll 15.

19 Turner, Henry M., “Letter from South Africa,” Voice of Missions, June 1, 1898, p. 7.

20 Ibid.

21 Petition of Thomas Brown et al, to Joseph Proffitt, Johannesburg, August 8, 1904 in Consular Despatches. Pretoria, R.G. 59, T. 660, roll 2.

22 Clipping from Transvaal Leader of August 2, 1904 in ibid.

23 Harry Dean and James Brown to Secretary of State, Johannesburg, August 28, 1993 in miscellaneous letter of the Department of State. R.G. 59, M. 179, roll 1182. Joseph E. Proffitt to Francis B. Loomis, Pretoria, August 8, 1904, Consular Despatches Pretoria, R.G., T. 660, roll 2.

24 “Cry the Beloved Country: Novel Makes Moving, Powerful Film on African Race Problem,” Ebony, July, 1951, p. 58; Era Bell Thompson. “What Africans Think About Us,” Ebony, January, 1954, p. 37, and E. B. Thompson, “Business and Job Opportunities in Africa. Few Countries Welcome the American Negro,” Ebony, March, 1958, p. 78.

25 “Jim Crow South African Style,” Ebony, May 1964, p. 123.

26 See Kilson, Martin and Hill, Adelaide (eds.), Apropos of Africa: Afro-American Leaders and the Romance of Africa (London: Frank Cass and Co. Ltd., 1969), Uya, Okan Edet, ed., Black Brotherhood: Afro-Americans and Africa (Lexington, Mass., D.C. Heath and Company, 1971), Leyburn, J. G., “Disabilities of the South African Native,” Journal of Negro History, XXX, (January, 1945), pp. 5260 , Yergan, M., “The Status of the Natives in South Africa,” Journal of Negro History, XXIV, (January, 1939), pp. 4456. See also issues of Crisis between 1910 and 1940. A. P. Walshe's views are summarized in the article “The Influence of Black American Thought on African Political Attitude in South Africa,” Review of Politics, XXXII (January, 1970), pp. 51-77.

27 Wilson, Monica Hunter, Reaction to Conquest: Effects of Contact with Europeans on the Pondo of South Africa (2nd ed., London: Oxford University Press for International African Institute, 1961), pp. 570571 , Walshe, “Black American Thought,” pp. 57, 62.

28 Mandela, Nelson No Easy Walk to Freedom (London: Heinemann, 1965), p. 189.

29 For accuracy it should be stated that the Youth League of the African National Congress had espoused go-it-alone principles in the 1940s. See Luthuli, Let My People Go. pp. 108-109, Walshe, African Nationalism, pp. 350-360.

30 Sobukwe, Robert M., “The State of the Nation” Address, August 2, 1959, quoted in Azania News, June 13, 1968, p. 14.

31 Gibson, op. cit, pp. 58, 61.

32 “Black Nationalism in South Africa,” Washington Task Force Special Report, Vol. 2, January-February, 1971 (Washington: Washington Task Force on African Affairs, 1971), p. 6, Cf. Mildred C. Fierce, “Economic Aspects of the Marcus Garvey Movement,” Black Scholar, III, (March- April, 1972), p. 55.

33 A Survey of Race Relations in South Africa 1971, compiled by Muriel Horrell, Dudley Horner and John Kane-Berman (Johannesburg: South African Institute of Race Relations, 1971), pp. 42-46. “South Africa: Alan Paton Speaks Out,” Newsweek, August 7, 1972, pp. 30, 32. Stanley Uys, “Black Power . . ., In South Africa . . .?” Atlas, June, 1971, p. 41. Francis Kornegay, “Southern Africa and the Emerging Constituency for Africa in the United States: A Selected Survey of Periodical Literature, Current Bibliography of African Affairs, V. January, 1972, p. 31.

34 Star (weekly ed.), August 14, 1972, p. 11.

35 Ibid.

36 Ibid.

37 See Kgokong, Alfred, “The Black Peoples Convention,” Africa Today, XIX (summer, 1972), p. 34.

38 “Unity, Land Vital Issues,” Star, November 11, 1972, p. 9.

Black American Involvement in South Africa's Race Issue

  • Clement Tsehloane Keto


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