BORN: 1871
DIED: 1946
PRESIDENCY: 1912 – 1917

John Langalibalele Dube was born in Natal in 1871. He was the son of Rev. James Dube one of the first ordained pastors of the American Zulu Mission. John Dube’s grandmother was one of the first Christians to be converted by the American Daniel Lindley.

Dube was educated at Inanda and Amanzimtoti (later Adams College). In 1887 he accompanied the missionary W.C. Wilcox to America. There he studied at Oberlin College while supporting himself in a variety of jobs and lecturing on the need for industrial education in Natal. He went back to Natal but soon resumed to the U.S. for further training and to collect money for a Zulu industrial school – as he called it – along the lines of the Tuskegee Institute.

While in the US, Dube was given the opportunity to lecture while accompanying Wilcox on his lecture tour. He lectured from 1890 to 1892, delivering talks throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

Dube succeeded in raising a sum of money which was later used to start the Zulu Christian Industrial School at Ohlange in 1901.

The skills of editing and publishing that Dube developed, while working at a local printing firm in the US, were put to good use when he established the first indigenous Zulu newspaper, Ilanga Lase Natal, which he officially launched in April 1903.

Dube bitterly opposed the arrest and trial of Dinizulu in connection with the 1906 Bambata rebellion and actively assisted in raising funds for his defence.

Dinizulu, son of the last Zulu king was, for Africans in South Africa, the symbol of past independence and at their identity as a people – and this is something which Dube, with his recollections of and pride in his African past, was to remain acutely aware of for the rest of his life.

In 1908 he resigned from the pastorate of Inanda. The tension between Dube on the one hand and the government and missionaries on the other subsided in 1907 but he was constantly warned that he was ‘playing with fire’

In 1909 Dube was a member of the delegation to Britain to protest against the Act of Union and in 1912 he accepted the Presidency of the ANC in spite of the pressures put on him by his preoccupation with education.

Dube was instrumental in improving the status of black women, especially those involved in the domestic work sector, and acted as a mediator in women’s dealings with the Department of Native Affairs.

In 1913 the Natives Land Act affected every strata of African rural society, which spurred the SANNC. In 1914 Dube was one of the delegates in London to protest against this legislation, but this delegation caused some controversy within the SANNC. It was believed that Dube had made some compromises on the principle of segregation. The bone of contention within the SANNC was the Land Act, and Dube was ousted from the presidency of the SANNC in 1917 and was succeeded by Sefako Mapogo Makgatho.

From this time onwards Dube concentrated his activities in Natal.

By 1935, Dube founded the Natal Bantu Teachers’ Association, today known as the Natal African Teachers’ Union (NATU) for professional Black teachers. He still remained active particularly in the in 1940s after Albert Xuma persuaded him to participate in the movement nationally, but with limited success.

Dube was successful in his endeavours in contributing to the political and socio-economic development of Blacks in Natal. He fought against the injustices against Black people and tried to gain a sense of equity through his lifetime. On 11 February 1946, Dube passed away.