Kuzwayo, Ellen 1914-2006

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KUZWAYO, Ellen 1914-2006
(Ellen Kate Kuzwayo)


See index for CA sketch: Born June 29, 1914, in Thaba'nchu, South Africa; died of complications from diabetes, April 19, 2006, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Activist, educator, politician, and author. A prominent leader in the antiapartheid movement in South Africa, Kuzwayo later became a member of the South African Parliament and an award-winning author. Born in the white-dominated Orange Free State, she earned a teaching certificate in 1935 from Abams College of Natal. Her well-educated parents taught her to be politically active, and by her early twenties she was going to African National Congress conferences. By the 1940s, she followed Nelson Mandela in helping to form the African National Congress Youth League, where she served as secretary of this more militant organization. During these years, Kuzwayo worked as a seminary school teacher in Natal, but missionary schools were closed by law in 1952, so she became a social worker under the aegis of the University of Witwatersrand. Also serving as general secretary of the Transvaal Young Women's Christian Association from 1957 to 1974, times became tough for her in the 1970s. The six-thousand-acre farm she inherited from her family was taken from her by the government when the land was designated for whites only, and in 1977 she was imprisoned for five months, but never charged with a crime. Undaunted, she continued her work with the African National Congress, and when the apartheid government finally fell and Mandela was named the new president of South Africa, she was elected to Parliament in 1994. In 1996 she testified at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about the oppression she experienced at government hands. She continued to be an active voice in South Africa, even after leaving office, often mourning the state of South Africa's black youth, which she blamed on the racist policies of the former government. Kuzwayo wrote four books, including the CNA Award-winning autobiography Call Me Woman (1985). Other works include Sit Down and Listen (1990), African Wisdom: A Personal Collection of Setswana Proverbs (1998), and the coauthored Values Alive: A Tribute to Helen Suzman.



Kuzwayo, Ellen Kate, Call Me Woman, Women's Press, 1985.


New York Times, April 22, 2006, p. C10.