©  2017 | 2018  Sol Plaatje Museum & Library
Last update: 10 November 2018
The Sol Plaatje Museum and Library is situated in the house which was occupied by the Plaatje family at the time of his death in 1932. The museum section was established in the two front rooms of the house in 1996, currently featuring display panels depicting the life and work of Plaatje and the history of the resistance press in South Africa. The reference library was launched in 2002. The keynote speaker was Judge FD Kgomo, the Judge President of the Northern Cape Division of the High Court at the time.  
The Sol Plaatje Educational Trust was established in 1991 to look after the house and the meaningful use of it as it was declared a National Monument in the same year. The purchase and restoration of the house was made possible through donations by the Anglo American and De Beers Chairman’s Fund and the ANC (Northern Cape). The Trust is registered with the Northern Cape Division of the High Court and also with the Department of Social Development as a non-profit organisation. Since 2005 the Trust is also registered with SARS as a Public Benefit Organisation for tax exemption purposes.  

From 2001 onwards the Trust’s primary mission was gradually amended to initiate and manage projects linked more directly or symbolically to the legacy of Plaatje and to monitor Plaatje related projects and programmes in the public domain. It established itself as an independent publishing entity in 2002 that specialises in publications about the life histories of the indigenous people of the Northern Cape, facsimile reprints of some of the works of Plaatje and our own publications on the life and work of Plaatje. The current project comprises the electronic processing of newspaper articles by and about Plaatje that will be uploaded on this website in the near future. 

Plaatje, an icon of the distant past, devoted his many talents to one overriding cause: the struggle of Africans in South Africa against growing injustice and dispossession. Throughout his short but productive life he was always ready to criticise, to write articles, letters and books, to be part of deputations, to appear personally in public demonstrations and to pay private visits to seek intervention with influential figures.  
  • At a very young age, with a limited formal education, he was appointed a pupil-teacher at the Pniel Mission station near Kimberley. He received private tuition due to his innate curiosity and diligence.  

  • Plaatje’s range of language skills were in short supply during the Siege of Mafikeng (now Mahikeng). He became a crucial intermediary between the local and war administration and the Barolong inhabitants.  

  • During the Siege Plaatje wrote his own diary, the first by a black South African clearly indicative of the pro-active involvement of black people in the South African War.  

  • Plaatje became the editor of Koranta ea Becoana in 1902, the first English-Setswana newspaper started and run by black South Africans.  

  • He was one of the founding members of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) in 1912 and assigned the position of corresponding secretary due to his language skills.  

  • He was the only person who served on both delegations to England to appeal against the enactment of the Natives' Land Act in 1913 and subsequent discriminatory measures. He spent many years aboard to the detriment of his personal finances and health.  

  • En route to England in 1915 he wrote the text of Native Life in South Africa which was voted in 2002 as one of the top 100 books of a previous century.  

  • During this visit to England Plaatje he completed two pioneering books - Sechuana Proverbs with Literal Translations and A Sechuana Reader in International Phonetic Orthography with English translations.  

  • After his return from England in 1917 he became involved in a major protest at the time viz the enforced carrying of urban residential passes by African woman.  

  • After his second visit to England Plaatje visited Canada and the USA on his own. He addressed an impressive number of meetings and developed close relationships with stalwart activists such as WEB Du Bois and Marcus Garvey.  

  • To Plaatje goes the honour of the first gramophone recording of Nkosi Sikeleke i Afrika on 16 October 1923 in London by the Zonophone Company.  

  • He was involved in the affairs of Lyndhurst Road Public School for black children in Kimberley that led to the establishment of a secondary school section and boarding  

  • Another pioneering achievement is his translations of the works of Shakespeare into Setswana of which two survived in published format. 

  • His novel Mhudi, the first novel in English by a black South African, was published in 1931.