Pixley ka Isaka Seme

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Pixley ka Isaka Seme in 1906
Pixley ka Isaka Seme
In office
Preceded by J. T. Gumede
Succeeded by Z. R. Mahabane
Personal details
Born (1881-10-01)October 1, 1881
Daggakraal, Colony of Natal
Died June 7, 1951(1951-06-07)
Nationality South Africa
Political party African National Congress
Alma mater

Columbia University

Jesus College, Oxford
Occupation Attorney

Pixley ka Isaka Seme (c. 1881[1] – June 1951) was a founder and President of the African National Congress. He was the first black South African lawyer.


He was born in Daggakraal,[2] then in the Colony of Natal, at the Inanda mission station of the American Zulu Mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. He graduated from Mount Hermon School, MA, in 1902 (now the Northfield Mount Hermon School). He attended Adams College which was part of the mission.

His mother was a sister of John Langalibalele Dube, and descended from a local chief.[3] At 17 years of age Seme left to study in the U.S., first at the Mount Hermon School and then Columbia University. In 1906, his senior year at University, he was awarded the Curtis Medal, Columbia's highest oratorical honor. He subsequently decided to become an attorney. In October 1906 he was admitted to Oxford University to read for the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law; while at Oxford he was a member of Jesus College.

Seme returned to South Africa in 1911. In response to the formation of the Union of South Africa, he worked with several other young African leaders recently returned from university studies in England, Richard Msimang, George Montsioa and Alfred Mangena, and with established leaders of the South African Native Convention in Johannesburg to promote the formation of a national organization that would unify various African groups from the former separate colonies, now provinces. In January 1912 these efforts bore fruit with the founding meeting of the South African Native National Congress, later renamed the African National Congress (Walshe 1970, Odendaal 1984). Seme was also the lawyer of Queen Regent Labotsibeni of Swaziland, through who the first ANC newspaper Abantu-Batho was financed. Later on in 1922 Seme accompanied King Sobhuza II as part of a delegation to london to meet British authorities and the King regarding the land proclamation in Swaziland.

Seme's nationalist organizing among Africans paralleled the contemporaneous efforts of Mohandas Gandhi with South African Indians.

Seme was very close to the Zulu and Swazi royal families. This is primarily symbolized by his marriage to Phikisele Harriet Dinizulu the daughter of Zulu king Dinuzulu and to Lozinja daughter of Swazi King Mbandzeni.


  1. ^ The birthdate is Seme's personal estimate at the time of his application to Mount Hermon.
  2. ^ "Pixley Ka Seme stature unveiled". SABC News.com. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  3. ^ (Smith 1952)


  • Bryant, A. T. ([1929] 1965). Olden Times in Zululand and Natal. Cape Town: C. Struik
  • Odendaal, Andre (1984). Black Protest Politics in South Africa to 1912. Totowa NJ: Barnes & Noble Books.
  • Smith, Edwin W. (1952). The Life and Times of Daniel Lindley, Missionary to the Zulus, Pastor of the Voortrekkers, Ubebe Omhlope. New York: Library Publishers.
  • Walshe, Peter (1970). The Rise of African Nationalism in South Africa. The African National Congress, 1912-1952. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.

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