Origins

Origins

In the small town of Alice in the Eastern Cape, on the banks of the Tyhume river, is the University of Fort Hare – the “Crucible of African Leadership” and the ‘alma mater’ of Apartheid Struggle. Alice is known as Dikeni,in the Xhosa language and as Alice in English. The Alice campus is one of a former military station donated by the United Free Church of Scotland, a former British fort during the border wars between the British and the Xhosa and about 50 km west of King Williams Town in a region that for a while was known as the “independent” Bantustan of Ciskei.

Nearby is the Lovedale Collage, now a FET Collage. The college originated from the sometimes uneasy alliance between the new class of educated African Christians, supported by a number of traditional Southern African leaders, and early twentieth-century white liberals. It was missionary station built in 1824 by the Glasgow Missionary Society and named after Dr John Love.

In 1870 a young reverend by the name of James Stewart arrived at the station having recently explored the Zambezi regions with David Livingstone and in 1870 when the first principal of Lovedale, William Govan resigned, Stewart was elevated to the helm and Lovedale rose to prominence, due to his efforts. His vision was that of an industrialist particularly when he introduced printing and book-binding and enrolled a large number of students from Eastern Cape and all over the country. The school grew from 92 pupils in 1870 to 336 in 1873 and 460 in 1876.

Under his leadership and tutelage Stewart greatly extended Lovedale operations, it became a non-sectarian center of religious, educational, industrial, and medical activity. Stewart became involved in a range of missionary publishing ventures that brought him into contact with a range of African intellectuals at the time.

Most included the crème de la crème of early black journalism – Walter Rubusana, Elijah Makiwane and John Tengo Jabavu one of the founders of the South African Native College amongst others – were his protégés who started out working as translators of the bible, writers of indigenous language religious literature and printing assistants. They later were to hold their own as independent publishers.

Rev. Dr James Stewart died on 21 December 1905 and was buried on Sandile’s Kop, overlooking Lovedale, where a memorial in the form of a lighthouse was erected. Rev. Dr James Henderson followed Stewart as principal of Lovedale. He took forward the Inter-State College, an idea of Dr Stewart for an institution of higher education that would eventually develop into Fort Hare University, which was officially opened by General Louis Botha on 8 February 1916. Classes commenced on 22 February 1916, with 20 students (two of them white) in two old houses at Lovedale.

In many ways fort hare is an offshoot of Lovedale; it was built on land given by Lovedale and only separated by the Tyhume River. The Lovedale developmental and educational trajectory always included a considerable emphasis on technical and agricultural, subjects that were taken up by Fort Hare (Sean Marrow 2006).

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