Pixley Seme

By: Erica Greiner

Life and Accomplishments

Pixley Seme obtained an exceptional education compared to other people during his time. He started off his education in a missionary school where the American Congregationalist Missionary arranged for him to get further schooling at the Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts. From there Seme got his BA at Columbia and became the first black South African to graduate from Columbia. Seme went on and completed a degree in law at Oxford University. Seme was the founder of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) which became known as the ANC. As well as being president-general of the ANC, Seme was also a lawyer and a journalist. His life ended in 1951 in Johannesburg at the age of 69.
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Significance to Anti-Apartheid Movement

After founding the SANNC, Pixley Seme played a big role in securing funding for the group from the chiefs of the villages. Seme also started a newspaper, Abantu-Batho, which drew attention from the people to the politics which oppressed them. Seme travelled with the Swazi leader to England and represented him in a land dispute. In 1930, Seme was elected president-general of the ANC as the country was in the midst of a Great Depression. Seme reorganized the group into regional congresses to make the ANC more responsive. After a new president was elected, Seme went back to practicing law in Johannesburg. He represented all people, even the poor, and hoped to defeat apartheid laws by defending the rights of the South Africans.

The Regeneration of Africa Speech (By Pixley Seme)

"I have chosen to speak to you on this occasion upon "The Regeneration of Africa." I am an African, and I set my pride in my race over against a hostile public opinion. Men have tried to compare races on the basis of some equality. In all the works of nature, equality, if by it we mean identity, is an impossible dream! Search the universe! You will find no two units alike. The scientists tell us there are no two cells, no two atoms, identical. Nature has bestowed upon each a peculiar individuality, an exclusive patent from the great giants of the forest to the tenderest blade. Catch in your hand, if you please, the gentle flakes of snow. Each is a perfect gem, a new creation; it shines in its own glory - a work of art different from all of its aerial companions. Man, the crowning achievement of nature, defies analysis. He is a mystery through all ages and for all time. The races of mankind are composed of free and unique individuals. An attempt to compare them on the basis of equality can never be finally satisfactory. Each is self. My thesis stands on this truth; time has proved it. In all races, genius is like a spark, which, concealed in the bosom of a flint, bursts forth at the summoning stroke. It may arise anywhere and in any race.

I would ask you not to compare Africa to Europe or to any other continent. I make this request not from any fear that such comparison might bring humiliation upon Africa. The reason I have stated,-a common standard is impossible! Come with me to the ancient capital of Egypt, Thebes, the city of one hundred gates. The grandeur of its venerable ruins and the gigantic proportions of its architecture reduce to insignificance the boasted monuments of other nations. The pyramids of Egypt are structures to which the world presents nothing comparable. The mighty monuments seem to look with disdain on every other work of human art and to vie with nature herself. All the glory of Egypt belongs to Africa and her people. These monuments are the indestructible memorials of their great and original genius. it is not through Egypt alone that Africa claims such unrivalled historic achievements. I could have spoken of the pyramids of Ethiopia, which, though inferior in size to those of Egypt, far surpass them in architectural beauty; their sepulchres which evince the highest purity of taste, and of many prehistoric ruins in other parts of Africa. In such ruins Africa is like the golden sun, that, having sunk beneath the western horizon, still plays upon the world which he sustained and enlightened in his career."

Works Cited

"Pixley Ka Isaka Seme." Columbia250. Columbia University, Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

"Pixley Ka Isaka Seme." South African History Online. SAHO, Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Seme, Pixley. "The Regeneration of Africa - Speech by Pixley Seme 5 April 1906." South

African History Online. SAHO, Web. 15 Nov. 2015.