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Plaatje, Solomon Tshekisho

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0102 MS 375495
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies
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Full title: Plaatje, Solomon Tshekisho
Date(s): Created 1902-1933
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 box
Name of creator(s): Plaatje | Solomon Tshekisho | 1876-1932 | South African author and statesman


Administrative/Biographical history:

Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje was born on 9 October 1876, in the district of Boshof, Orange Free State, South Africa. His parents were Barolongs, coming originally from Thaba Ncho, and trekking eventually to Mafeking. He was educated at Pneil Mission Station (Berlin Missionary Society), near Barkly West, until he passed the fourth standard. He then worked as a student teacher, continuing his study through private lessons from the Rev. G. E. Westphal. In March 1894 he joined the Cape Government Service as a letter-carrier in the Kimberley Post Office. In his own time he studied languages and passed the Cape Civil Service examination in typewriting, Dutch and native languages. In 1898 he was transferred to Mafeking as interpreter, and during the Siege of Mafeking at the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, he was appointed Dutch interpreter to the Court of Summary Jurisdiction.

Plaatje decided to become a journalist in order to give a voice to the Bantu people. He edited a number of Bantu language newspapers including Koranta ea Becoana (The Bechuana Gazette) 1902-1905, a weekly paper in English and Sechuana, which was financed by Chief Silas Molema. He then became Editor of Tsala ea Batho (The People's Friend) 1910-c1912.

He was elected First Secretary-General of the South African Native National Congress (forerunner of the African National Congress), 1912-1917. In 1914 and 1919 he was a member of the Congress delegation to London against the Natives' Land Act of 1913.

As a result of financial difficulties he became stranded in London for some time, but used this time to address meetings and to write Sechuana Proverbs. He returned to South Africa in 1917. Plaatje was also a delegate to the first Government Conference held under the Native Affairs Act. He travelled throughout Europe, Canada and the United States to draw attention to the plight of the black South Africans.

He was the author of numerous books including Native Life in South Africa (1915), Sechuana Proverbs and their European Equivalents (1916), and A Sechuana Reader. In 1919 he wrote Mhudi (published in 1930), which was the first published novel written in English by a Black South African.

He died on 19 June 1932.

Further reading: B Willan, Sol Plaatje: South African Nationalist 1876-1932 (Heineman, 1984).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers, 1902-1933, of and concerning Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje, including biographical material, notes, correspondence and photographs.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
Notes for Plaatje's publication Sechuana Proverbs and their European Equivalents include lists of proverbs in Sechuana, and their equivalents in English, French, German and Latin.

System of arrangement:

The material has been arranged into biographical material; source material for Plaatje's books; miscellaneous papers; and photographs.

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:

Unpublished handlist.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated in 1978.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds a photocopy (Ref: MS 380192) of manuscripts by Solomon T Plaatje: 'Notebook 1: The Essential Interpreter', and 'Notebook 2: Sekgama' (originals in Witwatersrand University Library, Johannesburg), part of the South African Materials Project.

Papers (1874-1932) of Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje, including the literary manuscripts of Silas Modiri Molema and the personal papers of the Molema family, are held at the Historical Papers section of the Library, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:
15 May 2000

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