South African Literary Timeline

Important literary events in South Africa with relevant social and historical links

1488-03-01 00:00:00

First European traveller

Portuguese navigator Bartholomeu Dias is the first European to travel round the southern tip of Africa.

1652-03-01 00:00:00

Jan van Riebeeck founds the Cape Colony

Representing the Dutch East India Company.

1795-03-01 00:00:00

British forces seize Cape Colony from the Netherlands

Territory is returned to the Dutch in 1803; ceded to the British in 1806.

1816-03-01 00:00:00

Shaka Zulu founds and expands the Zulu empire

1835-03-01 00:00:00

Boers leave Cape Colony and found the Orange Free State and the Transvaal

1852-03-01 00:00:00

British grant limited self-government to the Transvaal

1856-03-01 00:00:00

Natal separates from the Cape Colony

1860-03-01 00:00:00

Arrival of thousands of labourers and traders from India

1867-03-01 00:00:00

Diamonds discovered at Kimberley

1877-01-01 00:00:00

John A. Chalmers

The first biography ever written about a black South African was published. It was written by John A. Chalmers on the Rev. Tiyo Soga

1877-03-01 00:00:00

Britain annexes the Transvaal

1879-03-01 00:00:00

British defeat the Zulus in Natal

1880-03-01 00:00:00

First Anglo-Boer War

Boers rebel against the British, sparking the first Anglo-Boer War. Conflict ends with a negotiated peace. Transvaal is restored as a republic.

1883-01-01 18:21:01

Olive Schreiner 'The Story of an African Farm'

1884-01-01 18:21:01

Tengo Jabavu 'Imvo Zabantsundu'

The first black-owned and black-run journal.

1886-01-01 11:27:40

Rider Haggard 'King Solomon's Mines'

A bestseller in its day and also made into a movie several times.

1889-01-01 18:21:01

Douglas Blackburn, 'Prinsloo of Prinsloosdorp'

Enter story info here

1897-01-01 18:21:01

Olive Schreiner, 'Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland'

1899-03-01 00:00:00

Second Anglo-Boer War

Treaty of Vereeniging ends the second Anglo-Boer War. The Transvaal and Orange Free State are made self-governing colonies of the British Empire.

1903-01-01 13:13:51

Douglas Blackburn, 'A Burger Quixote'

Blackburn's second novel satirising Boere corruption.

1908-01-01 13:13:51

Douglas Blackburn, 'Leaven'

A moving denunciation of "black-birding" and iniquitous labour practices, and is one the first South African novels to portray what life was really like for peasants forced into urban labour.

1910-03-01 00:00:00

Formation of Union of South Africa

1911-03-09 13:47:56

Olive Schreiner, 'Women and Labour'

1912-03-01 00:00:00

Native National Congress founded

Later renamed the African National Congress (ANC)

1913-03-01 00:00:00

Land Act introduced

Prevents blacks, except those living in Cape Province, from buying land outside reserves.

1914-03-01 00:00:00

National Party founded

1915-03-09 13:47:56

Douglas Blackburn, 'Love Multi'

Attacks British colonial attitudes

1918-03-01 00:00:00

Secret Broederbond (brotherhood) established

1919-03-01 00:00:00

South West Africa (Namibia) comes under South African administration

1924-03-09 13:47:56

Sarah Gurtrude Millin, 'Gods Stepchildren'

1925-01-01 12:08:22

Thomas Mofolo, 'Chaka'

The story reinvents the legendary Zulu King - Published in 1925 with an English translation in 1930

1926-03-09 13:47:56

William Plomer, 'Turbott Wolfe'

Written when he was only 19 years old.

1928-01-01 12:08:22

R R R Dhlomo, 'An African Tragedy'

A short novel.

1928-03-01 00:00:00

Roy Campbell, 'Wayzgoose'

1930-03-09 13:47:56

Solomon Thekiso Plaatje, 'Mhudi'

Originally written in 1920, but only published ten years later. 'Mhudi' was the first book written by a black South African to be published.

1932-01-01 12:08:22

Bantu World

A black literary newspaper is founded

1934-03-01 00:00:00

The Union of South Africa parliament enacts the Status of the Union Act

South Africa declared a 'sovereign independent state'.

1941-01-01 12:08:22

H I E Dhlomo, compliation

Publishes many works including several plays and the long poem 'The Valley of a Thousand Hills'

1946-01-01 12:08:22

Peter Abrahams, 'Mine Boy'

Published in the same year in which a large miners strike was violently suppressed by Smuts' government.

1948-03-01 00:00:00

Apartheid becomes law

Policy of apartheid (separateness) adopted when National Party (NP) takes power.

1950-03-01 00:00:00

Population classified by race

Group Areas Act passed to segregate blacks and whites. Communist Party banned. ANC responds with campaign of civil disobedience, led by Nelson Mandela.

1953-01-01 12:08:22

Peter Abrahams, 'Return to Goli'

1953-02-23 04:22:27

E'skia Mphahlele, 'Down Second Avenue'

Hailed as a landmark in the development of South African fiction

1954-01-01 12:08:22

Peter Abrahams, 'Tell Freedom'


1956-01-01 00:00:00

Publication of 'Purple Renoster'

Literary magazine

1956-01-01 12:08:22

Publication of 'Africa South'

Arts Magazine

1958-01-01 02:14:31

Nadine Gordimer, 'A World of Strangers'

Enter story info here

1960-01-01 04:22:27

State of Emergency

In the early 1960s, the State of Emergency used by the apartheid state to crack down on dissidents, the banning of political organisations such as the African National Congress and the Pan African Congress, and the jailing of leaders such as Nelson Mandela, sent many black writers into exile. Among them was Alex la Guma, a Marxist and ANC leader who saw the purpose of his work as the exposure of the dreadful conditions of South Africa's oppressed.r story info here

1960-01-01 04:22:27


The New English language literary magazine 'Contrast' was launched.

1960-03-01 00:00:00

Seventy black demonstrators killed at Sharpeville

ANC banned.

South African Literary Timeline

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