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Xuma, Alfred Bitini (1893–1962)

Lucien van der Walt


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Alfred Bitini “A. B.” Xuma was a leading African nationalist in South Africa in the 1940s. Born to a Christian peasant family at Manzana, the Transkei, Cape Colony, Xuma was educated in mission schools, led a student strike, and qualified as a teacher in 1911. Two years later, he went to the United States, where he studied at Tuskegee, the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), Northwestern University (Evanston), and Marquette University and the Lewis Institute (Chicago). He supported himself by working as a laborer and a cleaner. Qualifying in medicine, Xuma was resident surgeon at several institutions and was admitted to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1927, returning to South Africa that year. He established a successful practice in the multi–racial freehold township of Sophiatown, Johannesburg, and also worked as a medical officer in the grim Alexandra slum. He was now at the apex of the small, vulnerable African elite. Xuma was not politically active at the time, beyond seeking to promote social reforms by exposing the wretched conditions of the African poor to official commissions and other forums. He turned down nominations to the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC). Many early African nationalists admired the Cape Colony's qualified franchise system, which enabled some Africans and Coloreds to vote, and which was retained in the Cape when it ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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