Today In History: John Langalibalele Dube Is Born 22 Feb 1871


John Langalibalele Dube (February 22, 1871 – February 11, 1946)

John Langalibalele Dube was born in Natal in 1871. He was the son of Rev. James Dube one of the first ordained pastors of the American Zulu Mission. John Dube’s grandmother was one of the first Christians to be converted by the American Daniel Lindley.

He looms large as one of the most important figures in South African history. He led a public life as an educator, an orator, a writer, a newspaper editor, and a international civil rights leader. He was the founding president of the African National Congress (1912).

In addition Dube was a founder of Ilanga Lase Natal (1903), the first Zulu language newspaper of which he later became editor.” In addition Dube often traveled to the United States, finding encouragement at Oberlin College, and inspiration from Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. In South Africa, Dube founded one of the first schools of higher learning for the indigenous peoples, the Zulu Christian Industrial School (1901), later renamed the Ohlange Institute.

There are many contradictory views and judgements on Dube’s life. Let us take a few samples.

B.W. Vilakazi, a poet and author, wrote in 1946 that Dube was “a great, if not the greatest, black man of the missionary epoch in South Africa” and earlier A.S. Vil-Nkomo had written in the same vein: Dube was “one who comes once in many centuries – No one else in his education generation has accomplished so much with such meagre economic means. He was scholar, gentleman, leader, farmer, teacher, politician, patriot and philanthropist”.

There were other judgements. To the Governor of Natal in 1906 Dube was “a pronounced Ethiopian who ought to be watched” and John X. Merriman, a Cape “liberal” described Dube in 1912 as a “typical Zulu, with a powerful cruel face. Very moderate and civilised, spoke extraordinarily good English …”. A little later he commented:

“Dube in conversation gave me a glimpse of national feeling which reminded me of Gokhale. How they must hate us – not without cause.”

Howard Pim, another “liberal”, found Dube frankly “puzzling”: “I should say he was strong-willed and a great egotist; but his effect on me is curiously neutral. I am neither attracted nor repelled by him. Apparently the people who get on with him do so with the aid of a little flattery”.

I.B. Tabata – in his characteristic style and fashion – referred to Dube (in his 1948 letter to Mandela) as a “principal of some secondary school in Natal” who was simply “a willing stooge in the hands of the Herrenvolk” and has ‘led the Zulu back to tribalism, where they stagnate today”.

Read more on Dube here…


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