The Liberation Archives
The records of the African National Congress
Check the site of the UFH and the current archives for information about the
mission records and the chronology of the ANC.
For the other liberation movement records you will find them at the same site
The Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (Somafco) Records
This Somafco records are the largest group from the ANC currently in the Library.
The collection includes the administration archive as well as the work of the
students across age range and level. Research into the records includes publication
of a poetry book “If you want to know me… voices from Somafco”
featuring poems from 12-year olds upwards. A number of articles in various history
and political journals have appeared by Fort Hare teachers and post-grad students.
A book by Dr Sean Morrow, Brown Maaba and Loyiso Pulumani on Somafco is due
for publication this year. (There is more information on the history of Somafco
and a virtual exhibit on the Library site).
University of Fort Hare Records
The University has its own valuable records, which provide historiographic
legitimacy. These records reflect the many people who studied at the University
and who became major leaders on the Southern African stage. They also hold an
historical record of the events taking place in South Africa with particular
regard to legislation on education policy and the formation of the Bantustans
as well as general political developments in the country. Student action at
pivotal periods, when new and harsher regulations, such a the 90 or 180 Day
Detention Acts were enforced, would take the form of strikes against unacceptable
food, or conditions in the residences, themselves legitimate grievances. The
consequences of protest were inevitably, suspensions, expulsions, often imprisonment,
closure of the University and conditional re-registration – all well documented
in the records as well as in the press cuttings.
In 1959 when the institution was placed under the “Bantu Education”
administration of the Department of Native Affairs, the then rector ZK Matthews
resigned, together with other top academics, thereby forfeiting the pensions
due to them. Matthews had been at Fort Hare for 21 years as a teacher.
After 1990, when the political organisations were unbanned, Professor Sibusiso
Bengu became the first black Vice-Chancellor of a South African university in
1992. In 1994 Fort Hare suffered a debilitating brain drain as the main players
were taken into government.
Federal Theological Seminary Records (Fedsem)
Fedsem was founded in 1963 as a joint theological school between
four Protestant denominations’ colleges: Presbyterian, Congreationalist, Anglican
and Methodist. It was the outcome of thought of having a united, inter-denominational
theological training school by many people in the 1950s in southern Africa,
and the co-operation of the many churches in South Africa with a strong missionary
tradition carried over from the 19th century.
The advent of apartheid in the 1940s in South Africa had greatly impaired the
ability of various religious schools to operate throughout the country and Fedsem
was a way of allowing the churches to carry out their work in a joint seminary
built on land that also held the University of Fort Hare.
The spirit of Fedsem was very progressive and anti-government and seems to
have carried on the spirit of the University of Fort Hare while under apartheid
control. Fedsem was often cited as the source of student unrest at Fort
Hare, and after some initial threat in 1971/2 the University expropriated the
Fedsem land and campus in late 1974. Fedsem moved to St. Bede’s in Umatata and
then to Edendale in Pietermaritzburg where they formed the Albert Lutuli College,
but finally dissolved in 1993.
The Fedsem records were transferred to Fort Hare after 1993 and remained unprocessed
right up to 2000. In the interim they had undergone many moves and all order
was lost. They were damaged by poor storage, especially water, silver fish and
a green mamba. Finally the records came to rest in the Seminar Room of the Fort
Hare University Library, where they were processed by a team of postgraduate
students from the University of Michigan School of Information under a joint
project with the University of Fort Hare.
The Oliver Tambo papers are a crucial addition to the archives.
Originally donated and processed at Wits, they came to Fort Hare with the ANC
records. The collection is a full record of the political life of O.R. Tambo
including his speeches, correspondence, policy documents, office output, and
photographs. The collection is fundamental for researchers exploring the ANC
in exile, biographical material of ANC leaders, and the struggle against apartheid
The Govan Mbeki papers include his songs and music from Robben
Island, artifacts such as his beloved guitar with its Island-built case. The
collection holds his correspondence, manuscripts of his books, some of which
was written on toilet paper and smuggled out of prisons, and a record of his
life on the Island and after his release. Oom Gov also gave to the University
his own library in a ceremony at his house weeks before he died. Many of the
books are those given to him by the authors.
The Walter Sisulu papers include much of his work at Lutuli
House on his release from Robben Island, his correspondence, speeches. writings
and some documents that he was able to salvage from before he was imprisoned
for almost three decades.
We also hold some of the papers of Sylvia Neame and Denis
Goldberg which still require processing.
The above personal papers are all part of the ANC fond or collection
The Lionel Forman papers, a University of Fort Hare collection,
include valuable material on the early history of white occupation and colonisation
of South Africa, the growth of black political organisations, the first black
newspapers, early publications, a unique Zulu diary of Cetywayo’s visit to Queen
Victoria, work on the National Question, student politics, Nusas, Wits and the
IUS, and bound volumes of the Guardian, New Age newspapers, and the politics
of the fifties. An early finding aid is posted on the website, (but this is
in the process of being reorganised).
The National Heritage and Cultural Studies (Nahecs) Archive
The collections stored at the Nahecs archive can also be viewed on the Fort
Hare website. Just as for those at the library, researchers would need to come
to the University to use them. However there is on the site a beautiful virtual
gallery of the beadwork and artifacts collection. The substantial personal papers
of A.C. Jordan are lodged in the archive at the Nahecs centre.