In This Review

Alfred B. Xuma: African, American, South African
Alfred B. Xuma: African, American, South African
By Steven D. Gish
New York University Press, 2000, 321 pp

This biography rescues from near-obscurity one of the important founders of South Africa's post-apartheid order. Xuma, an American-trained physician, was the first president of the African National Congress (serving from 1940 to 1949) to place the organization on a sound administrative and financial footing, paving the way for its transformation in the 1950s into an instrument of radical change. The focus throughout is on the values and attitudes that Xuma internalized in his 13 years as a student in the United States and then doggedly applied and adapted throughout his life: high achievement, self-reliance, dedication to group improvement, and racial equality. Little emerges about Xuma's private life -- his family, his attachment to his rural birthplace, and the ups and downs that must have accompanied his public career. Nevertheless, this balanced and insightful study adds significantly to the reader's knowledge of an underappreciated figure in South Africa's modern history.