Pixley Seme

Maya Ashooh

Life and Accomplishments of Seme

Pixley Seme was born in 1881 in Natal and although little is known about his early life, it is known that he became involved at his local mission school. The American Congregationalist missionary arranged for Pixley to go to the Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts. Seme also attended Columbia University for his BA and then went on to Oxford for a degree in law. He then became the first black South African attorney. After making a speech at Columbia called "The Regeneration of Africa", Seme was awarded the George William Curtis medal. He is also credited with founding the South African Native National Congress (SANNC). In 2006, Seme was awarded the Order of Lithuli in Gold.

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Seme on his graduation from Columbia. (1906)

Significance of Seme in the Anti-Apartheid Movement

Seme is one of the founders of the South African National Congress which was a precursor to the African National Congress (ANC). He was the keynote speaker at the Congress' inaugural meeting. In the 1920s the ANC's President-General, Josiah Gumede, was encouraging an alliance with the South African Communist Party. This idea was unpopular with Seme and other conservative ANC members and in 1930 Seme was elected as the new President-General. He beat Gumede 39 votes to 14. However, his time in office was not successful and he was considered to cautious as a leader. This lead to Seme to be replaced in 1937. Pixley Seme was a pivotal figure in the Anti-Apartheid movement. One of the strongest and most dominant forces in the movement was the ANC which was largely the brainchild of Seme, Sol Plaatje, and John Dube. Although Seme's time in office was not extremely successful, his involvement with the ANC helped spark the anti-apartheid movement.
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The African National Congress (1930)- Seme is located at the far right

The Regeneration of Africa

"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..."

Works Cited

"Pixley Ka Isaka Seme." sahistory.org. South African History Online, n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

"Pixley Ka Isaka Seme." South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

"Pixley Ka Isaka Seme." Ulwazi. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2015. Photograph courtesy of the University of the Witwatersrand Library

Seme, Pixley I. "The Regeneration of Africa." Columbia University, New York City, NY. 5 Apr.

1906. Speech.