The first educational institution that was started by a black South African
John Langalibalele Dube, who founded the Ohlange Institute – known at the time (1901) as the Zulu Christian Industrial School – had grown up in Inanda as the son of James Dube, a pastor in the American Zulu Christian Church.
As a result of this connection, John Dube was able to study in the United State, where he was influenced by the philosophies of black Americans such as Booker T Washington, and where the idea of starting an industrial school emerged.
Ohlange was the first educational institution that was started by a black South African.
Wikipaedia refers to John Dube as ‘essayist, philosopher, educator, politician, publisher, editor, novelist and poet.’ He was indeed a remarkable man. He was the first president of the ANC, founded the newspaper Ilanga, wrote extensively and was also an accomplished pianist.
John Dube’s house, the site of his grave and that of family members as well as the Ohlange Institute, are currently being incorporated into the ambitious JL Dube Legacy Project, which will also incorporate a large amphitheatre and craft centres.
Ohlange’s tour guide Mandla Nxumalo has that marvellous ability of making history come alive, and he particularly enjoys reliving the moment on 27 April 1994 when Nelson Mandela arrived at Ohlange to cast his vote in South Africa’s first democratic elections. Mandela was determined to pay tribute to John Dube and acknowledge the Ohlange Institute’s role in South Africa’s liberation history.
The hall where Nelson Mandela voted is now the JL Dube African Renaissance Resource Centre, and it boasts a statue of Mandela plus an interpretation centre.