Papers of Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises biographical material, papers, notes, correspondence and photographs of Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje.

Administrative / Biographical History

Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje was born on 9 October 1876, in the district of Boshof, Orange Free State, South Africa. His parents were Barolongs, coming originally from Thaba Ncho, and trekking eventually to Mafeking. He was educated at Pneil Mission Station (Berlin Missionary Society), near Barkly West, until he passed the fourth standard. He then worked as a student teacher, continuing his study through private lessons from the Rev. G.E. Westphal. In March 1894 he joined the Cape Government Service as a letter- carrier in the Kimberley Post Office. In his own time he studied languages and passed the Cape Civil Service examination in typewriting, Dutch and native languages. In 1898 he was transferred to Mafeking as interpreter, and during the Siege of Mafeking at the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, he was appointed Dutch interpreter to the Court of Summary Jurisdiction. Plaatje decided to become a journalist in order to give a voice to the Bantu people. He edited a number of Bantu language newspapers including Koranta ea Becoana ( The Bechuana Gazette ) 1902- 1905, a weekly paper in English and Sechuana, which was financed by Chief Silas Molema. He then became Editor of Tsala ea Batho ( The People's Friend ) 1910-c1912. He was elected First Secretary-General of the South African Native National Congress (forerunner of the African National Congress), 1912-1917. In 1914 and 1919 he was a member of the Congress delegation to London against the Natives' Land Act of 1913. As a result of financial difficulties he became stranded in London for some time, but used this time to address meetings and to write Sechuana Proverbs. He returned to South Africa in 1917. Plaatje was also a delegate to the first Government Conference held under the Native Affairs Act. He travelled throughout Europe, Canada and the United States to draw attention to the plight of black South Africans. He was the author of numerous books including Native Life in South Africa (1915), Sechuana Proverbs and their European Equivalents (1916), and A Sechuana Reader. In 1919 he wrote Mhudi (published in 1930), which was the first published novel written in English by a Black South African. He died on 19 June 1932. Further reading: Willan, B., Sol Plaatje: South African Nationalist 1876-1932 , (Heineman, 1984)

Arrangement

The material has been arranged into biographical material; source material for Plaatje's books; miscellaneous papers, and photographs.

Conditions Governing Access

Open

Acquisition Information

Deposited on permanent loan in 1978.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished handlist

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance