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On black excellence: Charlotte Mannya Maxeke

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I’ve been reading Zubeida Jaffer’s biography of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, Beauty of the Heart. I was very excited at the prospect of finally having a book available about a woman who is mostly known through the hospital that is named after her in Johannesburg. Beyond the hospital naming, I doubt she is a household name. I discovered her story when I was doing my Honours, and researching Nontsizi Mgqwetho’s poetry. A friend (who was doing her Masters on Tiyo Soga and Nonstizi Mgwetho) and I became obsessed with finding out more about 19th century African intellectuals. I came across the website New African Movement and discovered names such as Sol Plaatjie (who was a contemporary of Maxeke’s), D.D.T. Jabavu, A. B. Xuma but admittedly very few black women who had a public life and reputation in the late 1800s and 1900s.
Maxeke’s story is an extraordinary one. She graduated from Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1901 and became the first black woman in South Africa to obtain a university…