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Sat, 03.21.1914

Anton Lembede, South African Lawyer and Activist born

Anton Lembede

*Anton Lembede was born on this date in 1914. He was a Black South African lawyer and activist.

Anton Muziwakhe Lembede was born on the farm of Frank Fell near Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. He was the eldest of seven children born to Mbazwana Martin and Martha Nora MaLuthuli Lembede. His father was a farm laborer, and his mother was a teacher. Anton was home-schooled by his mother until the four grade.

He started his formal education at the Catholic Inkanyezi School at 13. In 1933, Lembede enrolled at Adams College and registered for the "Native Teachers Higher Primary Certificate." As a student, he was dedicated and brilliant with languages. His views were more practical than political, and he wrote about the need for education and self-reliance. This view reflected the traditional view of his school that the ideas of the African American Booker T. Washington had created.

In 1936 after graduating from Adams College, he took up teaching and pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in his spare time. Lembede majored in Philosophy and Roman Law. Lembede then enrolled at the University of South Africa for a law degree, completed it in 1942, and registered for a Master of Arts in Philosophy in 1943. Lembede moved to Johannesburg after finishing his LLB and completed his articles at Pixley ka Isaka Seme's law firm. Seme had first proposed the idea of the ANC, and he had been an unimpressive president of the organization. Seme no longer enjoyed the success of his early career, and he looked to Lembede to take over his firm when he retired. Seme briefly practiced law for a while.

During this time, he regularly met with Walter SisuluNelson Mandela, and Oliver Tambo to discuss how they must win their freedom. Lembede was the principal thinker behind launching the African National Congress Youth League, with its first elected general President of the ANC Youth League on September 10, 1944. The league wanted to reform the ANC, which they described as "a body of gentlemen with clean hands." Lembede spent much of his time creating the organization's Manifesto as the ANC's secretary in the Transvaal.

The following year Lembede, Tambo, and Sisulu went on the attack to defend their ideas of African nationalism, and they almost succeeded in getting the communists thrown out of the congress in the Transvaal. Possibly, as a result, both the ANC's National Executive seconded him to help them. Lembede had intestinal problems during the 1940s and had abdominal surgery in 1940 and 1941. Anton Lembede died on July 30, 1947, aged 33. His cause of death was cardiac failure associated with a blocked intestine.

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