Biography of Mark Mathabane

By Joseph Yamouni

Early life

Johannes Mathabane (changed to Mark Mathabane in 1976 in an attempt to hide from the South African government) was born in Alexandra, South Africa on October 18, 1960. His father, Jackson Mathabane, struggled with alchohol and gambling and was abusive at times. His mother, Magdalene Mathabane, was sold to his father as a wife by her mother at age 15. Mathabane was encouraged by his mother to excel in education and eventually fight against Apartheid in South Africa. Mathabane and his family lived in a one square mile ghetto which always had around 200 thousand people living in it. Mathabane got his first pair of shoes when he was 14. Mathabane has described his childhood life as horrid and that he had to learn to cope with it. Mathabane first got his ideas of escaping Apartheid from his first english book that was givin to him by the family that his grandmother workded for, "Treasure Island". While and after reading treasure island, Mathabane began to dream of escaping to a land away from Apartheid.

The move to America

Along with his first english book, Mathabane also recieved his first tennis racket, in which he used to train himself to play tennis, As he became more experienced, he entered in the South African Championship tennis tournament in Johanesburg. In this tournament he met Stan Smith, the 1972 Wimbledon tennis star. WIth Smith's help, Mathabane moved to America and began attending Limestone College in South Carolina. Though Apartheid was not present in America Mathabane noticed the discrimination between whites and blacks in America. During his college years, Mathabane transfered to multiple different colleges such as Limeston College in 1978, Saint Louis University in 1979,Quincy College in 1981 and then Dowling College.

Success in Literature

In 1986, Mathabane wrote his autobiography, "Kaffir boy" and recieved much praise for his work including being invited to the Oprah Winfrey Show. Additional works include the following.

  • Kaffir boy in America: An Encounter with Apartheid
  • Love in Black and White: THe Triumph of Love over Prejudice and Taboo
  • African Women: Three Generations
  • Ubuntu
  • Miriam's Song
  • The Proud Liberal

Connection to Kaffir Boy

"Kaffir Boy" was an autobiography depicting Mark Mathabane's life and struggles through getting out of South African suppression. Essentially, Mathabane's life is shown through his autobiography.


Johnson, Anne. "Mathabane, Mark 1960–." HighBeam Research, 1994. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

"Mark Mathabane Biography | Author of Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa." BookRags. BookRags. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

"Biography of Mark Mathabane." The New York Times. The NEw York TImes. Web. 27 Apr. 2015. <>.

Mathabane, Mark. Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa. New York: Macmillan, 1986. Print.