Josiah Tshangana Gumede was born on 9 October 1867 in the village of Fort Beaufort, Eastern Cape. After school he studied in Grahamstown and moved to Natal in 1884 when he accepted a teaching post at Adams College, Umbumbulu. There he befriended a colleague, Saul Msane. Together they started a Zulu Choir in 1890 and went on tour to Britain with the choir in 1892. Gumede married Margareth Sithole, a teacher from Bergville and was subsequently employed by Chief Ncwadi as an induna.
South African War Years 1899-1902
In 1894 he was one of the first Blacks to be recruited by the Natal Intelligence Dept before the outbreak of the SA War in 1899. In 1899 Gumede and Msane met Harriette Colenso to discuss the formation of an African political organisation and in 1900 together with Martin Luthuli and Saul Msane he became cofounder and general secretary of the Natal Native Congress, a position he held for several years.