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Fri, 06.29.1917

Henry Nxumalo, Journalist born

Henry Nuxmalo

*The birth of Henry Nxumalo is celebrated on this date in 1917. Also known as Henry "Mr. Drum" Nxumalo, he was a pioneering South African investigative journalist.

He was born in Margate, Natal, South Africa, and attended the Fascadale Mission School. Showing early capacity as a writer, he submitted various samples of his work to publications and as a result was offered a job by the Post newspaper in Johannesburg, which had published some of his earlier contributions. He enlisted in the South African Army when World War II broke out and was sent to Egypt, where the South African forces were involved in the Western Desert of North Africa.

There were few opportunities for black journalists due to the restrictions of apartheid upon his return to South Africa. Most black-focused publications were controlled by white business interests and none of them offered scope for the kind of investigative exposés that Nxumalo had in mind. In 1951, Drum magazine was published with Anthony Sampson as editor, who asked Nxumalo to become the assistant editor.

Nxumalo by this time specialized in investigative journalism. He obtained employment on the potato farms to expose the squalid conditions (almost slave-like) experienced by Black laborers. Worried about the lawlessness in Johannesburg "the square mile of sin", he agitated for clean-up and appealed for support from the police. On another assignment, he managed to get himself arrested and was sent to Johannesburg central prison. His resulting article, describing the ward conditions and the degrading naked search, was an international exclusive. He later got work on a farm where an African laborer was beaten to death with a section of hosepipe. His investigation into whether the church "supported" apartheid showed the difference between prejudice and the gospel of "brotherly love".

Henry Nxumalo was investigating an abortion racket when he was murdered by unknown assailants on December 31, 1957. In 2004, Goch Street in Johannesburg's cultural hub, Newtown, was renamed Henry Nxumalo Street. Sylvester Stein's 2005 play Who Killed Mr. Drum? (Adapted from his 1999 book of the same title about his time as editor of Drum) begins with Nxumalo's murder. He was posthumously honored with the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for excellence in South African journalism. The award was collected by his son, Henry Nxumalo Jr, on September 27, 2007.

to be a journalist or Reporter



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