Did you know?
In 1954, Father Trevor Huddleston gave Hugh Masekela his first trumpet, launching a stellar career for the jazz musician.
After the Johannesburg suburb of Sophiatown was established in 1912, it soon became a multi-ethnic hub in the City of Gold.
In the decades that followed, especially the years shortly after World War II, Sophiatown was something of a lifestyle trend-setter, the ‘New Orleans’ of the bustling mining centre simply called 'Jo'burg’.
The writers, artists, photographers and musicians who thrived and played in Sophiatown were at the vanguard of a black South African cultural boom. Their style was Afro-American, their walk was confident and their manner spoke of a new boldness and self-belief.
Into this colourful community came a young Anglican missionary priest from England, Trevor Huddleston, who belonged to a community of monks called the Community of the Resurrection (CR). Arriving in 1943, he soon immersed himself in the daily lives of the people of Sophiatown. But a dark era of South Africa was approaching, and when the ruling Nationalist Party passed the Group Areas Act in 1950, the authorities were determined to clear black residents from Sophiatown and other designated areas all around South Africa.
Father Huddleston joined the protests against forced removals and completely won over the beleaguered community he served. He earned the nickname of Makhalipile (the dauntless one).
During the next five years, Father Huddleston stood with Sophiatown. After he was recalled to England in 1955, he wrote Naught for Your Comfort, a scathing critique on the oppression of black South Africans by the government of the day. Sophiatown, meanwhile, was renamed Triomf (Triumph) and populated exclusively by working-class whites.
In 1981, the now-Archbishop Huddleston became president of the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
He passed away in 1998, but his memory lives on in countless good deeds and the establishment of the Trevor Huddleston CR Memorial Centre in the renamed Sophiatown. The centre, which aims to bring back the flavours and traditions of old Sophiatown, has a number of leadership programmes and training projects in place for youths who live in the western areas of Johannesburg, which includes Soweto.
The Trevor Huddleston CR Memorial Centre’s initiatives are steeped in skills training, arts and oral history, and the establishment of strong value systems. The CR Centre plans to empower at least 1 000 young people in the area within the next few years.
Some of the other exciting developments emerging from the centre area are Sophiatown Jazz Encounters and heritage walking tours of the district, during which visitors can feel a part of the street life of this legendary area.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Trevor Huddleston CR Memorial Centre
Corner of Good and Herman streets
Tel: +27 (0)11 673 1271
How to get here
Sophiatown lies in the western sector of Johannesburg near the landmark suburb of Melville. The centre is situated at the corner of Good and Herman streets.
Best time to visit
Sophiatown is a year-round destination, but it’s best to avoid ‘bad weather days’ because you will be spending some time outside.
Around the area
The suburbs of Melville and Greenside have lively night-life offerings and superb restaurants.
Tours to do
Apart from the heritage walking tour and the jazz evenings, an exciting local football team called Sophiatown Boys practices each week. Check with the centre for details.
Self-drive at first, followed by a few hours' walking on the heritage trail.
What will it cost
Melville accommodation prices vary according to the level of service required. Sophiatown activities and events are charged separately. Guided walking tours cost R70 for adults and R35 for children.
Length of stay
A proper ‘bite’ of Sophiatown should take you two days, with an overnight stay in Melville. If time is short, then a one-day encounter can be organised.
What to pack
Pack for the urban experience, combined with some walking on the heritage tour. If you’re booking for one of the jazz evenings, then by all means don the glad rags and hit the tiles.
Where to stay
The trendy suburb of Melville is less than 2km from Sophiatown and offers a very wide range of accommodation, from self-catering to full guest-house service.
What to eat
The best eateries near the area are in Greenside and Melville.
The centre runs monthly Sophiatown Jazz Encounters, music theory classes and a youth theatre group.
Why not make a pledge to the Trevor Huddleston CR Memorial Centre?