September, Dulcie (1935–1988)

views updated

September, Dulcie (1935–1988)

South African activist. Born Dulcie Evonne September in 1935 in Cape Town, South Africa; died on March 29, 1988, in Paris; never married; no children.

Dulcie September was an educator and long-time member of the African National Congress (ANC) whose murder in 1988 shocked both France and South Africa. Born in 1935 and raised in the suburbs of Cape Town, she attended public schools and then Battswood Teacher Training College. She became a teacher in the mid-1950s, at a time when the white South African government had just imposed racial apartheid on the education system. September first became politically involved when she saw how poorly black and mixed-race children were being educated in comparison to white children. She joined the Unity Movement but left when she became dissatisfied with its passive approach to political change for racial equality. She then became a member of the National Liberation Front (NLF) of South Africa. Her covert political activities for the NLF led to her arrest in October 1963; she served a five-year prison term for sabotage and inciting political violence, although she always denied being a supporter of any kind of violence. Banned from teaching after her release, September left to study in London in 1974, where she also worked for the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Returning to South Africa, September joined the African National Congress, serving first in the ANC headquarters in Lusaka. Her friendly but serious demeanor, her education, and her deep commitment to ending racial injustice led the ANC in 1984 to name her Chief Representative to France, Luxemburg, and Switzerland. She established an ANC office in Paris, where she was subjected to harassment and death threats from supporters of the apartheid government. In 1987, the death threats increased, and although she reported them to the French authorities, saying she believed she was being watched, she was not given police protection. On the morning of March 29, 1988, September was shot five times from behind as she opened the ANC office. She died instantly. No murderer has ever been identified, although many have suspected the Pretoria apartheid government of South Africa of the crime. September's death caused shock and outrage in her homeland and in France. She is now considered a martyr by opponents of apartheid. In 1998, on the tenth anniversary of her death, she was honored in Paris by the naming of a city plaza Dulcie September Square.


Busby, Margaret, ed. Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology. NY: Pantheon, 1992.

Obituary, in Time. Vol. 131, no. 38. April 11, 1988.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California