Mark Mathabane

Reyaan Shah


Johannes Mathabane was born in Alexandra, South Africa to father, Jackson Mathabane, and his mother, Magdalene Mathabane, who was sold to his father at the age of 15. Johannes ended up the eldest of seven children, and was subject to very harsh conditions in the ghetto he lived in. Dealing with the hardships of living illegally in Alexandra, Johannes dealt with hunger, frequent police raids, and abuse from nearly everyone around him.


Johannes was encouraged and financially supported by his mother to get an education as she believed it was his key to escaped the corrupt society they lived in. Unfortunately, his father thought quite differently on the subject. Nevertheless, Johannes began attending primary school at the age of seven, and despite being scolded for his shortcomings, Mathabane excelled in his classes. Johannes also took up tennis after given a racket by a kind white family that employed his grandmother, a key event leading to his eventual escape from apartheid.


As Johannes becomes a more prominent tennis player and draws inspiration from African American tennis player Arthur Ashe, tennis becomes his number one priority as it lets him see into the white world and understand that some whites are against apartheid. Johannes continues traveling to forbidden parts of Johannesburg and playing tennis matches despite the disapproval of his people, as he is working towards the tennis scholarship that eventually gets him out of South Africa.

Life in America

With the help of renowned tennis player Stan Smith, Johannes, now Mark, attended the Limestone College in South Carolina. He graduated from Dowling College with a degree in Economics, and studied Journalism at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Shortly after graduating, Mark Mathabane began writing Kaffir Boy, publishing it in 1886, giving him national acclaim and and opportunities to sit with TV personalities such as Oprah Winfrey. He met President Bill Clinton in 1993 and served as a White House Fellow.