Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Dube, John Langalibalele (B)

Alternate Names: mafukuzela
South Africa

John Dube

South African writer, clergyman and the first president of the African National Congress.

Born 12 February 1871 to Reverend James and Elizabeth Dube, in Inland in the Natal province, Dube received his elementary education at local mission schools before going to the Amandimtoti (now Adam’s) College. He entered Oberlin College, Ohio, U.S.A in 1889, and published his book, A Talk Upon My Native Land in 1892. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts in 1893 and was ordained in 1897.

During his stay in America he met contemporary black intellectuals, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. du Bois and John Hope, who were to influence him in his later life. He returned to South Africa to found the Zulu Christian Industrial School (renamed the Ohlange Institute) in Natal in 1901. This institution, organized in emulation of Washington’s famous Tuskeegee Institute with a strong bias for the industrial arts, eventually became the focal point of education for young African males and females in the country.

In 1903, with the eminent African journalist, Nganzana Luthuli, Dube co-founded the Hanga Lase Natal (The Natal Sun), the first Zulu language newspaper of which he became editor. The newspaper also carried articles in English, and Dube wrote one column to voice the aspirations of the Zulu whose rights were being usurped by the white settlers. This won him wide support among Africans but great disfavour from the white supremacist government. The paper was closed down for a while after Dube vigorously supported Chief Bambata’s campaign against the erosion of African rights. In 1909 he published his most important political treatise, The Zulus’ Appeal for Rights and England’s Duty, in which he called on the British government to face up to its legal responsibility in South Africa and halt repression in the colony.

At its inaugural meeting on 8 January 1912, in Bloemfontein, Dube was elected the first president-general of the South African Native National Congress, which later became the African National Congress (ANC). The following year, the most important and fundamental policy of the government came into force, the Land Act of 1913 which gave legal sanction to white possession of land and denied Africans the right to either own or purchase land in white areas. Under Dube’s leadership, the ANC launched vigorous protests which culminated in a visit to London in 1914. But Dube and members of his delegation were not favourably received at the Colonial Office. Returning to South Africa in disgust, their immediate efforts in the campaign were to be interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War.

Dube was elected in 1942 to the Native Representation Council as a member for Natal. In the council he was a senior spokesman, and was succeeded in that capacity in 1946 by Chief Albert Luthuli.

In literature and scholarship, as in politics, Dube showed immense quality and energy. He wrote Zulu folk and dance songs and published Lsita esikhulu somuntu omnyama nguye ugobo iwake (The Greatest Enemy of the Black Man is Himself) in 1922, which is generally regarded as the first Zulu work in grammatical form. He wrote a novel in English, Clash of Colour, in 1926, followed in 1933 by his classical historical novel, Unique isla ka Tshaka, depicting the life of the great Zulu king Chaka and the work of his court. It was translated into English in 1951 under the title Jeqe, the Body-servant of King Tshaka. His last works, U-Shembe, a biography of the famous Zulu prophet Isaiah Shembe, and *Ukuziphatha Kahle * (Good Manners) were published in 1935.

Dude was highly regarded for his scholarship and political exploits. In 1926, he was a guest participant at the International Conference of Christian Missions held in Belgium, which dealt with religion and race relations. In 1936 he became the first African to be awarded an honorary Ph.D. degree by a South African institution. He died in Umhlanga, Natal, on February 1946, at the age of 75.

Sources Consulted Include:

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