John Tengo Jabavu

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John Tengo Jabavu (11 January 1859 – 10 September 1921) was a political activist and the editor of South Africa's first newspaper to be written in Xhosa.

John Tengo Jabavu and his son Davidson Don Tengo, around 1903

In 1876, Jabavu took over editorship of the Isigidimi samaXhosa ("The Xhosa Messenger"), and by the early 1880s had become an important political force. Jabavu's writings tended to focus on the threat of growing Afrikaner nationalism and his demands for equal rights for South Africa's black population. Tengo Jabavu was also known as a proponent of women's rights as well as public education.

In recognition of his political influence, a group of prominent Cape Colony political figures approached Tengo Jabavu in 1883 with a request for him to stand for election to the Cape Parliament. They recommended that he represent one of the constituencies of the Cape where Black African voters formed a significant percentage of the electorate, such as Victoria East. However Jabavu declined, citing the possibility that such a move would unite and aggravate reactionary elements in the Cape Parliament and would therefore be counterproductive.[1] Nonetheless, he later lent his powerful support to the more liberal leaders of the Cape's South African Party against the repressive policies of Rhodes's "Progressives"[2]

In 1884, Tengo Jabavu founded his own newspaper, Imvo Zabantsundu ("Black Opinion"); a year later, he married Elda Sakuba, who would die in 1900, leaving four sons. The eldest of these sons, Davidson Don Tengo Jabavu, would become a respected author and activist in his own right; the second eldest, Alexander, succeeded John Tengo Jabavu as editor of Imvo Zabantsundu, following his 1921 death in the home of D.D.T. Jabavu at Fort Hare.


  1. ^ J.L. McCracken: The Cape Parliament, 1854-1910. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1967.
  2. ^ Cape Argus Weekly, 7 Sept. 1898 & 23 Dec. 1903.
  • Walshe, A. P. "The Origins of African Political Consciousness in South Africa." The Journal of Modern African Studies 7.4 (1969): 583-610.

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