Philosopher. Educator. Essayist. Editor. Publisher. Novelist. Politician. These terms give an insight to who John Langalibalele Dube was. Dube was the founding president of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) which then became African National Congress (ANC) in 1923.

He was the president of SANNC between 1912 and 1917.John Langalibalele Dube was born in Natal on the 11th of February 1871, at the Inanda mission station of the American Zulu Mission. He was born to Elizabeth Dube and Reverend James Dube, who was one of the first African pastors to be ordained by the American Zulu Mission. He had seven siblings. His formal education was in Inanda and went on to Adams College in Amanzimtoti. In 1887, Dube went to the United States to further his studies at Oberlin College. He studied printing and self-help, however he was unable to graduate. When he returned, he and his first wife Nokutela Dube founded a newspaper known as Ilanga lase Natal Newspaper. Dube was born of royal lineage and was the rightful chief of the Qadi tribe, however due to his father’s conversion to Christianity he did not rule over the Qadi people.

Ilanga lase Natal was overtly political, Dube used the paper to stress the needs for African unity and representation. It emphasised the need for education and financial assistance from white philanthropists. Dube was vocal about the government’s land policy (1913, Land Act). He opposed the arrest and trial of King Dinuzulu in connection to the with the 1906 Bambatha Rebellion. The Natal government tried by all means to bring down Ilanga lase Natal before and during the Bambatha Rebellion.

The publication was attacked for the decisions of missionaries on land allocation on the reserve. It is possible that Dube would have never been part of the SANC, except that his teachings and discourse on the fundamentals of unity chimed in with the then nascent political atmosphere. It is popular for the biased historians to mention Dube’s conservatism evidence of his eventful parting with the ANC. Although Dube was conservative and cautious in politics, he was candid on the rights of black people and the key tenet of unity. Dube saw the necessity of the unity of black people before Marcus Garvey came to the international scene. Dube was an educator and a speaker of note. He used to engage white people in lectures around the country. In 1901, he and his first wife Nokutela Dube founded the Zulu Christian Industrial School, now known as Ohlange High School. Zulu Christian Industrial School was the first ever educational institution in South Africa to be founded by black people.

Dube was among the pioneering men of letters who helped in establishing Zulu literature. Dube was one of the very first published Zulu authors. His first published work in 1910, was an essay written in English, it was on self-improvement and public decency. His work that earned him his honorary doctorate in philosophy was the essay ‘Umuntu Isita Sake Uqobo Lwake’. Dube published a novella, which has proven to be a popular and influential Zulu canon, it was titled ’Insila kaShaka’ in 1930. He was also a biographer for the Zulu royal family, this made him the first biographer in African literature. As conservative as he was, he was one of many firsts to fight for black lives using his words, he wanted unity for his people, a fight that we are still fighting. John Langalibalele Dube paved the way for many creatives, he passed on his 75th birthday on the 11th of February 1946.