1917 to 1985
A prominent Zulu intellectual
Jordan Kush Ngubane was a prominent figure in African nationalist politics in the first half of the 20th century and was one of the young Turks that spearheaded the formation of the ANC Youth League.
Jordan Kush Ngubane was the crème de la crème of Natal and national politics for approximately 20 years of his life. He used his might as a journalist and politician to stir things up and co-founded the ANC Youth League with Ashby Peter Solomzi Mda and Anton Lembede. Many of his peers saw him as one of the most prominent Zulu intellectuals of his time.
Jordan Kush Ngubane, popularly known as JK, was born in Nkwebebe in Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal on 15 November 1917. He first went to Forbes Intermediate School where he did Standard Six and later, in 1933, went to Adams College to further his studies. While at Adams College he met Anton Muziwakhe Lembede, with whom he and Mda would later on in their lives co-found the ANC Youth League – an action that would change the course of South African history.
Towards the end of his schooling days at Adams College, he studied Journalism through correspondence. It was in 1937 when JK was 20 that he completed matric and was immediately offered a permanent job as Assistant Editor at Ilanga lase Natal, to John Langalibalele Dube.
In 1943, after six years of grooming and experience he gained under Dube’s paper, he moved to Johannesburg to become an Assistant Editor of Bantu World, under the editorship of Richard Victor Selope Thema.
In 1944, he reunited with Anton Lembede and co-authored the Congress Youth League Manifesto when he was 27. Mda met him through Lembede and the trio became founders of the ANC Youth League and its ideology.
In the same year, he headed back home to work as an editor of Inkundla ya Bantu, then the country’s fully black-owned newspaper, which he edited for seven year, until 1951. He turned it into a leading platform for Africans to express their political opinions.
It was during this time that he deposed AWG Champion while endorsing Chief Albert Luthuli for power, as Natal leader and later as President-General of the ANC. Ngubane also authored a number of good reads, including An African Explains Apartheid which was published in 1963. Twelve years later he penned Ushaba: The Hurtle to Blood River as well as a body of literature in Zulu including a novel, Uvalo Lwezinhlonze (Terror in the Frowns).
At the age of 41, in December 1958, he led the Liberal Party to Ghana at the All African People’s Conference. A year later in April, he became part of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). In December 1960, he was elected a leader in the Consultation Conference of African Leaders in Johannesburg. Nine years later, he would go into exile and live in the United States of America.
Karis, T and Carter, MG. 1977. From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa 1882-1964. Volume 4. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, pp.114-115.
Mda, P. 1954. Jordan Ngubane: Masterpiece in Bronze. Drum. May.
Rosenburg, G. 2000. Auto/Biographical Narratives and the Lives of Jordan Ngubane. Alternation, 7(1): 62-96.