Single Authored Publications

The Founders: The origins of the African National Congress and the struggle for democracy

(2nd edition now available)

The African National Congress was founded a hundred years ago, in January 1912. But the roots of the ANC run even deeper in South African history. In fact, the ANC’s founding was the culmination of more than sixty years of organisation by a new class of African modernisers. These were men and women educated in local mission schools and in universities abroad, who sought a place for themselves in the new South Africa emerging at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. Much of their history is unknown but their story has been painstakingly recovered by Andre Odendaal, who has pieced together the astonishing achievements of this new class and the broad vision they proposed for a new society. Today, only a few of the founders of the ANC are still well known – John Dube and Sol Plaatje among them. But they were only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, for, across the length and breadth of the country, educated Africans were emerging in numbers and claiming their rightful place in the new South Africa. This is the epic story of that development. Many of the individuals and families who were prominent at that time are the forebears of leading African politicians and political families today. This is their story too. When the Union of South Africa was finally formed in 1910, Africans found themselves largely excluded from the new society. In protest, Africans from throughout the country came together in Bloemfontein in 1912 and formed their own organisation to represent their interests and advance their claims. It would take another eighty years before they achieved their aims. When he cast his vote in 1994, Nelson Mandela is reported as saying at the nearby memorial to John Dube, first ANC president: ‘Mission accomplished, Mr President.’

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