Who was Pixley ka Isaka Seme?

Pixley Seme was born on 1 October 1881 at the Inanda Mission in Natal, the son of Isaka Sarah (nee Mseleku) Seme. He attended primary school at the local mission school where the American Congregationalist missionary, Reverend S. C. Pixley, took an interest in him and arranged for him to go to the Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts in the USA.

Seme did his BA degree at Columbia, where in 1906 he delivered his now famous speech at Columbia University in 1906 on “The Regeneration of Africa”. The speech won him the University’s highest oratorical honour, the George William Curtis medal and was circulated widely in South Africa at the time. The vision he expressed in this memorable speech lives on in the minds of African leaders and underpins the philosophy of various political movements on the African continent today.

From Columbia he went to Oxford University where he completed a degree in Law. He was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in London before returning to South Africa on the eve of the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

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These posts and others on past ANC presidents complement exhibitions at the Local History Museums, including a Josiah Gumede exhibition at KwaMuhle Museum and the Pixley ka Isaka Seme exhibition at the Old Courthouse Museum.

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