John Langalibalele Dube

John Langalibalele Dube` [Do-bay] (1871 - 1946) was a South African essayist, philosopher, educator, politician, publisher, editor, novelist and poet. He was the founding president of the African National Congress [http://allafrica.com/stories/200706270762.html Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe beyond March 2008] , June 27, 2007. AllAfrica] between 1912 and 1917 (the ANC was, at this point, called the "South African Native National Congress" and remained so to 1923 and South Africa was then known as the Union of South Africa. Dube was born in Natal at the Inanda mission station of the American Zulu Mission (AZM), a branch of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. His father, the Rev. James Dube, was one of the first ordained African pastors of the AZM. Dube began his formal education in Inanda and Adams College, Amanzimtoti. In 1887 he left for the United States of America where he studied at Oberlin College.

Dube was born of royal lineage, actually he was a chief of the Qadi tribe but owing to his father's conversion to early missionary Christianity in pre-republic South Africa he did not rule over his Qadi people. This means also that Dube's name was actually Ngcobo who have the chieftancy of the Qadi people of the Zulu. Then there were few black people, back then properly called Bantu, he became involved in the politics of the day. As missionary educated person there was conflict between the newly-arrived Western education and African traditional society. However, he navigated this social schism with a statesmen-like ability as in his later years he was able to win the trust of the Zulu royal family. Somehow it is conceivable that Dube would never have been part of the SANC except that his teaching and discourser on the necessity of unity chimed in with the then nascent political atmosphere. It is now fashionable for biased historians to mention Dube's conservatism as evidence of his eventual parting of ways with ANC. But, actually, the truth is that the SANC, later ANC since 1923, was never a radical movement on the call of such issues as universal suffrage until it was radicalised by the formation of its youth wing ANC Youth League in the 1940s. His speeches as a president of a mass-based political movement, the oldest formation of a black political movement in the world, has never been made available - the next formation of black people into a coherent socio-political movement was to come into being with Marcus Garvey's UNIA, founded in 1914. In his politics he was cautious, conservative yet forthright on the rights of blacks and the paramount tenet of unity - he foresaw the necessity of unity of black people long before Garvey came to the international scene.

Dube was also an educator, a speaker of note on the circuit engaging whites in lectures around the country. As an educator he founded the school for girls (see below). He gave many lecturers on invitation and was awarded Doctorate of Philosophy as a result. His role as an educator has been less documented, but he proposed views on education and culture that were to be used in inimical ways by the "apartheid" government when it came into power in 1948 and legislating Bantu Education Act. He had identified the need to combine Western education with local customs, traditions and grounding in broad African communal behaviour. His theories on education are found in both "Ukuziphatha" and in "Isita".

He was among the pioneering man of letters to help establish Zulu literature. He was the first published Zulu writer, though later it would transpire that the first written work belonged to a barely literate man named Fuze Mangena who wrote a sketchy book of history of the Zulus, "Abantu abamnyama lapo bavela ngakona", published in 1922 but having been written in the 1880s/early 1890s. Dube's first published work was in English an essay of self-improvement and public decency in 1910, but the work that was to earn the honorary doctorate of philosophy was the essay "Umuntu Isita Sake Uqobo Lwake" [ A man is his own worst enemy] (1992)(text in pre-1936 Zulu old orthography). He went on to publish a historical novella that has proved much popular and influential in Zulu canon titled "Insila kaShaka" [Shaka's Body Servant] (1930). He had also embarked on writing biographies of the Zulu royal family especially that of King Dinizulu, making him the first biographer in African literature. There are numerous other works of less significant literary quality such as the essay "Ukuziphatha" [On Behaviour] (1910).

In addition to his literary works Dube was a productive man who founded the first Zulu newspaper "Ilanga laseNatali" [The Sun of Natal] in 1903, a publication that has just celebrated its centenary some four years ago though it is no longer independent since being bought by then proto-political association Inkatha yeNkululelo yeSizwe in 1988 led by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, later to be known as a political party in post-apartheid South Africa called Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). The distinction of having founded the first vernacular newspapers went to the Xhosa language which as early as the 1870s was publishing four-page newspapers, though all of Xhosa publications are now defunct with last one disappearing in mid-1990s. He edited and wrote numerous editorials for the paper and under various pseudonyms as well as publishing some indifferent poems. He nurtured journalist who later on went to become editors at his paper and contributed in the flourishing Zulu literature.

Dube had experienced first-hand the influence of Booker T. Washington in his travels to US to expand his education in early 1890. He came to found the Inanda Seminary Institute for Girls at Ohlange in 1901, a school dedicated to teaching Bantu women modern ways in order to be liberated and understand society the better. In his "Ukuziphatha" Dube had identified the Bantu woman as the weakness in developing Bantu society because of society's restriction on education to women and what he identified as women's propensity to ephemera. He had read Washington's "Up From Slavery", a book on self-reliance, the gospel that was taught by the American sage Ralph Waldo Emerson. Washington's book was to prove immensely influential in Bantu thought and across the black world. It got translated into several Bantu languages in South Africa, but Dube, who knew it best, never translated it instead putting its teachings into practice, a feat that was never accomplished except by Garvey and his movement and, on a minor scale, by the political figure Steve Biko in his hometown of King William's Town in the province of the Eastern Cape, South Africa. He had been inspired by Washington's Tuskegee Institute; years later Marcus Garvey was to attempt to see Washington because of a similar inspiration, though he arrived in US in 1916 with Washington having died the previous year. Dube's school is still functioning till today. Dube was a firm believer in self-reliance, both as an ethical and spiritual quest towards realisation of dignity and respect in the eyes of others. In "Isita" he preached self-reliance and the need for black people to initiate economic ventures in order to gain respect in the eyes of the world. He knew profoundly that the problem of racism was not based on skin complexion but on the weighing of civilisations and achievements. He surveyed civilisations and found the black having accomplished little, if anything, that was worthy of respect by other nations of the world hence he the black person was despised.

In 1901 John Dube established the Zulu Christian Industrial School at Ohlange, near Phoenix and EkuPhakameni. He established the Ilanga lase Natal "(Sun of Natal)", a Zulu/English newspaper.

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