South African writer
An accomplished writer and a founder of the African National Congress, Sol Plaatje worked for political and cultural causes in SOUTH AFRICA. He was born in Boshof in what was then the Orange Free State of South Africa, one of the AFRIKANER REPUBLICS founded by Dutch colonists. He spoke the Setswana (or Tswana) language and worked for the government as an interpreter. When the South African (Boer) War broke out between the Dutch colonists and the British in 1899, Plaatje kept a record of it in a journal. Having discovered that he could write, he founded a newpaper in 1901, the first Setswana newspaper.
Plaatje's career in journalism led to an interest in politics. In 1912 he helped organize the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), which eventually became the African National Congress (ANC). As the group's first general secretary, he led an effort to oppose land laws that prevented Africans from owning or living in territories that the British had chosen as their own. He went to London to protest the land laws to the British government, but his protests were not successful. Plaatje remained abroad, spreading the news about South Africa's racial troubles. He stayed in England for three years, lecturing on race issues and working as a language assistant at the University of London. He spent a year in Paris, where he attended several international conferences, including the Pan-African Congress. Plaatje also traveled to the United States to meet with American publishers. He returned to South Africa in 1923.
Plaatje was passionately devoted to the preservation of the Setswana language and culture. He wrote several books on Setswana life and culture, and he translated two of William Shakespeare's plays, Comedy of Errors and Romeo and Juliet, into Setswana. His final book, a novel called Mhudi: An Epic of South African Native Life a Hundred Years Ago, was published in 1930.