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Charlotte Maxeke the first black woman to earn a degree in South Africa (1901)

Charlotte Makgomo Maxeke (nee Mannya) was South Africa’s first black female graduate after she earned a BSc degree at Wilberforce University in 1901

Charlotte Maxeke short biography

  • Born in Ga-Ramokgopa, Polokwane on 7 April 1874
  • Father: John Kgope Mannya the Presbyterian preacher son of headman Modidima Mannya from Batlokwa people, under Chief Mamafa Ramokgop
  • Mother: Anna Mancia Xhosa a Xhosa woman from Fort Beaufort, Eastern Cape
  • Student at a missionary school in Uitenhage (primary) and at Edward Memorial School in Port Elizabeth (secondary)
  • Married fellow Wilberforce University graduate, Dr Marshall Maxeke in 1903 who was born on 1 November 1874 at Middledrift.
  • Taught indigenous languages to expatriates and basic English to African “boss-boys” after moving to Kimberley, Northern Cape in 1885
  • Joined the African Jubilee Choir in 1891, she toured Europe and North America with them
  • Graduated with a BSc degree at Wilberforce University in Ohio, the US in 1901
  • Founded the Bantu Women’s League which later became part of the African National Congress Women’s League in 1918
  • Active in the anti-pass law protests starting 1919
  • Joined the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union in 1920
  • Elected president of the Women’s Missionary Society under the Methodist Church
  • Attended the launch of the South African Native National Congress in Bloemfontein in 1912
  • In 1928 she set up an employment agency for Africans in Johannesburg.
  • First black woman to be employed as a parole officer for juvenile delinquents
  • Died on 16 October 1939 in Johannesburg aged 65

Charlotte Maxeke in the United States

After completing a tour of the United States with the African Jubilee Choir in 1898, their European organiser ran away with all the money leaving them stranded on the streets of New York.

She was later offered a scholarship at the Wilberforce University in Ohio by Bishop Daniel A. Payne of the African Methodist Church who recognised her name in the newspaper from his time as a former missionary in the Cape.

Maxeke graduated from Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1901 and became the first black woman in South Africa to obtain a university degree

Charlotte Maxeke legacy

  • Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital named after her
  • The South African Navy submarine SAS Charlotte Maxeke was named after her.
  • Mother of Black Freedom in South Africa
  • There is an ANC nursery school named after Charlotte Maxeka.
  • Her home is set to be converted into a museum and interpretation centre.
  • The ANC hosts an annual Charlotte Maxeke Memorial Lecture.
  • Beatrice Street in Durban was changed to Charlotte Maxeke Street in her honour.
  • Maitland Street in Bloemfontein was renamed Charlotte Maxeke Street her honour.

Portrait of the African Jubilee Choir (Charlotte Maxeke is the first woman on the right)

Portrait of the African Jubilee Choir (Charlotte Maxeke is the first woman on the right)

Charlotte Maxeke

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