15 December 1933
Donald James Woods was born in Elliotdale, Transkei on 15 December 1933. He was educated at Christian Brothers College in Kimberley. After completing his matric, Woods enrolled at the University of Cape Town in 1952 to study law but switched to journalism. Woods initially supported the idea of separate development but was critical of the way National Party (NP) led government implemented the policy. As he increasingly became critical of the ideology of separate development he entered politics by joining the Federal Party. In 1957 he contested for a parliamentary seat but was defeated. Woods returned to journalism, working in Cardiff (Wales), Toronto (Canada), and London (England) before rejoining the Dispatch in 1960. In 1965 Woods became the editor of the East London Daily Dispatch. He integrated black, colored and white editors by making them sit in the same working area in violation of the government's policy of segregation. The editorials of the Daily Dispatch became critical of the government. As a result Woods was prosecuted several times over the issues he published in the newspaper. In 1975 Woods met the Minister of Police James "Jimmy" Kruger requesting the easing of Steve Biko banning orders and as a consequence he was placed under increasing police surveillance. After the student uprising of 1976, the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) was banned and its leaders placed under house arrest. Woods was also placed under house arrest. When Biko died in police custody, Woods denounced the government, leading to his own voice being banned. While he was banned he began authoring Biko. On New Year's eve in 1977 he escaped to Lesotho and his family followed soon afterwards. Once in exile Woods continued to publish articles on the South African situation. In 1997 Woods attended the ceremony of the unveiling of statue of Steve Biko in East London by Nelson Mandela. In 2001 he was honoured for his work on Human Rights when he was awarded the Honour of Commander of the British Empire (CBE). Woods died of cancer in East London 2001.
Anon, South Africa Apartheid Activists - Famous South Africans - Donald Woods, from the South African Guide, [online], Available at www.thesouthafricaguide.com [Accessed 22 November 2010]|Alex Duval Smith, (2001), Donald Woods, enemy of apartheid, dies at 67, from the UK Independent, 20 August, [online], Available at www.independent.co.uk [Accessed 22 November 2010]|Anon, Donald Woods - the Man Who Told us of Biko, from the BBC, [online] Available at www.bbc.co.uk [Accessed 22 November 2010]|Anon, 1977: Steve Biko dies in custody from the BBC, [online] Available at www.bbc.co.uk [Accessed 22 November 2010]