South African history has a great deal to thank Pixley Isaka Ka Seme for. A lawyer, his single most important contribution was the call for unity amongst blacks despite racial and tribal differences. Seme is one of the founding members of the African National Congress.

Did you know?

In 1928, Colombia University awarded Pixley Seme an Honorary Doctorate of Law (LLD).

Born in 1881, Pixley Isaka Ka Seme was one of South Africa's most important historical figures.

He is considered to be father of black attorneys. Seme was one of the earliest black South Africans to study overseas and paved the way for many others because of his dedication to excellence and political awareness.

Named Isaac Seme after his Zulu father, Pixley Seme grew up in Natal and attended a local American missionary school. He showed exceptional promise and eagerness to study overseas, so much so that at the age of 17, Reverend Pixley helped him gain entrance to Mount Hermon School in the US. Here he took on the name Pixley.

This passion for education saw Seme go on to complete his Bachelor Of Arts degree at Columbia University and his law degree at Oxford before returning to South Africa in 1911.

Back in South Africa, he opened up a law practice in partnership with Alfred Mangena.

A year later Seme, Mangena and a few others, called for the meeting of black communities throughout South Africa in Bloemfontein, and started what they called South African Native National Congress (SANNC). This organisation called for black unity despite tribal racism, and was later renamed the African National Congress (ANC) in 1923.

Seme also launched the SANNC newspaper, Abantu Batho, which was published in Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho and English, and established another group, the South African Native Farmers Association.

By this time, Seme had an established law practice, and some of his clients included the royal family of Swaziland. In 1928, Colombia University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Law (LLD).

In 1951 he died at the age of 70.

Related articles