Bantu newspaper editor, teacher, preacher, and champion of education and justice in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.
Son of Mtwanambi (from forebears Citywa), Jabavu was born in a village near the Methodist mission school of Healdtown. Staunch Methodists, the family also attended Quaker meetings. One brother Jonathan James became a minister. Jabavu became a teacher, working in Somerset East (1877 - 1881), there apprenticing himself to the Wesleyan Methodists as a local preacher, as well as to the local newspaper office. He became editor of Isigidimi sama-Xhosa (The Xhosa Express) at the Lovedale Institution, where he developed as a brilliant debater. Then he became editor of Imvo Zabantsundu (The people’s opinion, 1884 - 1921), which was oriented toward Christian justice. He was an ardent nonviolent advocate of an impartial administration of justice, without regard to race, and continually alert to the African cause. His editorial power frequently drew the attention of the Cape Parliament. He traveled to London in 1909 to fight the Color Bar clause in the Union Constitution, and was elected to attend the Universal Races Congress (1911). From 1906 he worked at what became the South African Native College (ultimately, the University of Fort Hare), also championing the cause of women’s education.
Gerhardus C. Oosthuizen
Davidson D. T. Jabavu, The Life of John Tengo Jabavu: A Great Bantu Patriot (1922); M. Stauffer, *Thinking with Africa *(1927).
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.