Harold Jack Simons was born on 1 February 1907 in Riversdale in the Cape. He was educated in South Africa and for a few years was attached to a law firm and was then in the public service in Pretoria. He completed a Ph.D. degree at the London School of Economics. From 1937 until 1964 he taught African law and administration at the University of Cape Town, where he became one of the most popular and respected lecturers. He was a defendant in the sedition trial that followed the African mineworkers' strike of 1946 and a member of the central committee of the Communist Party (CPSA) when it decided to dissolve the party in 1950 on the eve of the enactment of the Suppression of Communism Act. He was placed under successive bans beginning in 1952 but continued to teach. Because of a new policy whose effect was to prevent former Communists from teaching, he left South Africa in 1965. David Welsh, his successor at the University of Cape Town and an activist in the Progressive Party, has expressed the admiration of former students by dedicating his book. The Roots of Segregation (1971), "To Peter Brown [the Liberal Party leader] and Jack Simons, two great South Africans."
Simons was a research fellow at the University of Manchester and professor of sociology at the University of Zambia. He is now retired in Lusaka. His writings include African Women: Their Legal Status in South Africa (1968) and, with his wife. Ray Alexander, Job Reservation and the Trade Unions (1959) and Class and Colour in South Africa 1850-1950(1969). The last book is a richly detailed tracing of "the interactions between the two main streams of resistance to white domination: the national movements of Africans, Indians, and Coloured; and the class struggles of socialists and communists."
He was married to Ray Alexander, herself a prominent trade unionist, feminist and political activist. Jack Simons died in 1995 in