The Aborigines' Protection Society as an Anticolonial Network: Rethinking the APS "from the bottom up" through letters written by Black South Africans, 1883–87
- Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 22, Number 2, Summer 2021
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Histories of the Aborigines' Protection Society (APS) often take for granted that the APS was principally a metropolitan organization, existing primarily in the minds and actions of its members in London. This paper presents a new perspective, highlighting that the APS also existed in the minds and the actions of its global network of settler, missionary, traveller and Indigenous correspondents that provided the APS with information on the conditions of the imperial peripheries. Case studies of letters written by three Black South Africans—John Tengo Jabavu, Mqikela, and Samuel Moroka—to the APS between 1883 and 1887 are examined. Jabavu wrote from Cape Town, challenging Cape encroachments on African voting rights. Mqikela wrote from Pondoland, challenging Cape encroachments on Mpondo territory. Samuel Moroka wrote while visiting London, challenging Orange Free State interference in his succession dispute in Thaba Nchu. Placing these letters within a framework of epistolary mobility, this paper demonstrates how the correspondents used writing to the APS as a tool of anticolonial resistance. More than simply "attempting" resistance, Jabavu, Mqikela, and Samuel Moroka occasionally succeeded in their attempts, convincing the APS to raise their questions in the House of Commons, set up interviews between them and Members of Parliament, and publish their articles in daily newspapers. Yet these successes were always conditioned by an unequal balance of power. The APS could censor and control the voices of Jabavu, Mqikela, and Samuel Moroka when assisting them was no longer in the APS's interest. Approaching the APS from the perspectives of Black South African correspondents offers a new perspective not only on the APS as an anticolonial network, but also on colony-metropole relationships in late nineteenth-century South Africa.