Bantu educator, author, and social activist of the Eastern Cape, South Africa.
The eldest son of Mary and John Tengo Jabavu, Jabavu was born at King Williamstown and was educated there by Wesleyan Methodists and at the Lovedale High School. On being refused admission to white colleges, he entered the University of London and graduated there in 1912, the first black South African to gain a British degree. He trained further in journalism and religious and social work in England and wrote a report on the United States education system for the Union of South African government. Returning to South Africa in 1914, he edited and published Imvo Zabantsundu (The people’s opinion), a weekly newspaper, and in 1915 was appointed the first professor at the South African Native College, Fort Hare, concentrating on Bantu languages and social anthropology. He taught there for twenty-nine years. As a writer he continually promoted the black cause, also founding and organizing the South African Farmers’ Association. He served as president of the Cape Teachers’ Association, worked in other educational bodies, and chaired numerous conventions and conferences. He attended the meeting of the International Missionary Council at Jerusalem in 1928. In 1954 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Rhodes University and the Bronze Medal of the Royal African Society. He was also known for directing student and church choirs and other Methodist church activities.
Gerhardus C. Oosthuizen
Davidson Don T. Jabavu, The Life of John Tengo Jabavu (1922), “Native Unrest in South Africa,” IRM 11 (1922): 249 - 259, The Influence of English on Bantu Literature (1942), The Black Problem (1953), and with others, Criticism of the Native Bills (1935). Robert H. W. Shepherd, African Affairs (1958), Bantu Literature and Life (1955), and Lovedale and Literature for the Bantu: A Brief History and a Forecast (1945).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.