Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

The Ghost of Equality
The Public Lives of D. D. T. Jabavu of South Africa, 1885–1959

By Catherine Higgs

“Catherine Higgs’s meticulously researched and well-written biographical study fills an important gap in the historiography of the region…. This is a fine, concise book that illumines a significant and revealing South African life.”

American Historical Review

“A vivid portrayal of D. D. T. Jabavu, a black leader who helped shape many South African worlds—black and white, rural and urban, secular and sacred—as the shadows of segregation lengthened over his land. With meticulous documentation and lucid prose, Higgs expounds the ideas and aspirations of this many-sided man, his liberalism, multiracialism, and Christianity in particular. Inaugurating a reassessment of Jabavu’s generation of African leaders, she illuminates the early history of some of the South African traditions that, to the world’s surprise, triumphed with the collapse of apartheid.”

Richard Elphick, Professor of History, Wesleyan University

“Lucidly written, this first biography of the man is a worthy addition to the literature on black South Africa.”


“Higgs provides an engaging and well-informed account of Jabavu’s very public career.”

African Studies Quarterly

Davidson Don Tengo Jabavu was born in the Cape Colony in British southern Africa on October 20, 1885, when a few African men could vote and the prospects for black equality with the ruling whites seemed promising. He died on August 3, 1959, in the Cape Province of the Union of South Africa, eleven years after the apartheid state had begun stripping blacks of their rights and exorcising the ‘ghost of equality’ with a completeness unparalleled in the country’s history. The ‘ghost of equality was the last vestige of the Cape liberal tradition — itself best summed up by the dictum ’equal rights for all civilized men‘ — finally erased in 1959 with the passage of legislation that would, the following year, remove from parliament the last elected white representatives of Africans.…

If D.D.T. Jabavu’s life reveals anything about South Africa’s political history, it is that this history was not monolithic. It was not simply a lengthly confrontation between a black elite represented by the African National Congress and the white segregationist state. Rather, there was a range of black political opinion and activity, of which Jabavu, an active participant in virtually every government-sponsored and every major extraparliamentary conference between 1920 and the late 1940s, represented one prominent historical strain.

This book, however, is about more than D.D.T. Javavu’s politics; it is about his public life, or perhaps more accurately, his public lives. The book is arranged thematically, divided according to the parts Jabavu played: student, teacher, Methodist, and politician.

— from the introduction by the author

Catherine Higgs is Professor of History in the Department of History and Sociology in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus. She is the author of The Ghost of Equality: The Public Lives of D.D.T. Jabavu of South Africa, 1885–1959, Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa, and coeditor of Stepping Forward: Black Women in Africa and the Americas, all published by Ohio University Press.   More info →

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Retail price: $36.95, S.
Release date: November 1997
15 illus. · 289 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for The Ghost of Equality

“Catherine Higgs’s fine-grained narrative raises important questions about the adequacy of existing analyses of black South Africans’ reception of British liberalism and the Christian gospel. Higgs demonstrates that the situation in the early to mid-twentieth century was much more complex and conflict-ridden than conventional wisdom allows. What is perhaps most surprising about the D. D. T. Jabavu we meet in these pages is the extent to which his racial consciousness gave form and substance to his liberalism and to his faith. No radical, he was nevertheless what black Americans of his generation would have called, respectfully, a ‘race man.’”

John Edwin Mason, Assistant Professor of History, University of Virginia

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