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ZK Matthews Papers (ACC101)

UnisaIR/Manakin Repository

ZK Matthews Papers (ACC101)


Zachariah Keodirelang Matthews was born in Kimberley in 1901. After finishing high school, he enrolled for a BA degree at Fort Hare, and completed it in 1923 – thereby becoming the first African to obtain a BA degree at a South African Institution. After private study, Matthews became in 1930, the first African to earn an LL.B. degree in South Africa, and was admitted as an attorney to the Johannesburg bar and the Transvaal division of the Supreme Court. In 1933 he was invited to study at Yale University in the United States, and the following year he completed an MA there. Afterwards he spent a year at the London School of Economics to study anthropology. He returned to South Africa in 1935, and in 1936 he was appointed lecturer at Fort Hare in Social Anthropology and Native Law and Administration. In 1944 Matthews became head of Fort Hare’s department of African Studies, and he was also promoted to professor. On the political front, Matthews became ANC provincial president for the Cape in June 1949. He proposed the basic idea of the Congress of the People in his presidential address to the Cape annual conference in August 1953. In December 1956, when he was the acting principal of Fort Hare, he became one of the accused in the Treason Trial. On his release from the trial in late 1958, he returned to Fort Hare. In 1962 Matthews moved to Geneva to become secretary of the Africa division of the World Council of Churches. In 1966 he accepted the post of ambassador to the United States and chief United Nations representative for Botswana. He died in the United States in 1968. Bridging the gap between the old guard and the more militant younger members of the African National Congress in the late 1940’s and 1950’s, Matthews exercised a major guiding and moderating influence on African political history in its most crucial period. He was at the same time South Africa’s, and perhaps the continent’s, most distinguished African intellectual. (Extracted from): From Protest to Challenge: A documentary history of African politics in South Africa 1882 – 1964, edited by Thomas Karis and Gwendolen M Carter, 1977.This collection consists of handwritten manuscripts, letters, pamphlets, photos, typed reports and lectures, with bound and loose leaf pages. 1453 items.

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