“Dr. A. B. Xuma was the most important black South African leader of the generation before Mandela, Tambo, and Sisulu. He also spent many years in the United States and had strong African-American connections. Virtually forgotten on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years, he deserves to be honored and remembered. Steven Gish has done both in this superb biography, which is at once a major contribution to South African and African-American history.” ”” George M. Fredrickson, Robinson Professor of History, Stanford University, and author of Black Liberation: A Comparative History of Black Ideologies in the United States and South Africa
“Before the advent of the giants of recent decades, Alfred B. Xuma was one of the most important leaders of the African National Congress, yet he has never been the subject of a detailed study. Now in a meticulous biography, Steven Gish places him in the context of his times, and reveals his true stature for the first time. His book makes an important contribution to our knowledge both of African nationalism in South Africa and of links between the worlds of black South Africans and African- Americans.” ”” Christopher Saunders, Professor of History, University of Cape Town
One of the most influential black South African leaders of his generation, Alfred Bitini Xuma (1893””1962) has been praised, criticized, obscured, and now partly forgotten. After receiving a missionary education in the
Transkeian territories, Xuma traveled to the United States in 1913 to continue his studies, returning to South Africa fourteen years later to enter the cultural and political world of the educated African elite. In December 1940 he became president of the African National Congress. Xuma’s leadership revived the ANC and helped bring about a dramatic resurgence in African protest politics. In 1949, however, a new generation dedicated to mass action gained control of Congress and swept Xuma from power.
In this political biography, Steven D. Gish situates Alfred B. Xuma’s life within the context of black South African nationalism, illuminating a key transition period in African protest politics. Gish furthermore explores the impact of African American ideas on Xuma’s political thought and the degree to which Xuma reshaped these ideas to fit the South African political climate of the 1930s and l940s. By tracing Xuma’s reaction to white paternalism and “trusteeship,” Gish demons trates that the philosophy of “Africanism” had earlier roots than previously thought.
A thorough examination of Alfred B. Xuma’s life and times, Gish’s study not only broadens our understanding of African nationalism at a crucial period, but also sheds light on white liberalism, Pan Africanism, and the world of the educated African elite.
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