The great-great grandchildren of struggle pioneer Nokuthela Dube and the great-great granddaughters of the American family who helped educate her yesterday came together at Freedom Park in Pretoria to remember the oft-overlooked South African icon.
The story of Dube started when she was just 10 years old when she wrote an essay with the title “My home”. Her story was published by an American missionary couple, Ida Belle and her husband, William Cullen Wilcox, who were forced out of South Africa in 1890 for advising the Zulu tribe in KwaZulu-Natal to not pay taxes and insist on land title deeds.
Nokuthela later became one of the first women in the 1890s to travel to America and receive an education, while other black people were travelling there to become slaves.
According to Nokuthela’s great-great grandchild, Langa Dube, yesterday’s ceremony was all about the restoration and preservation of South Africa’s “lost history”.
“For her spirit to be brought in here to interact with other spirits of heroes and heroines is of great significance for us. She believed without education, the black man is nothing.”
US researcher Professor Cherif Keita, who conducted in-depth research into the Dube family, said that Nokuthela married John Langalibalele Dube – the first president of the then South African Native National Congress. He said the Dube couple worked tirelessly to raise funds in the US between 1896 and 1899 to establish the Ohlange Institute (1900), the newspaper Ilanga Lase Natal (1903) and many other ground-breaking institutions.
Libbie Wilcox-Giddings and her sister, Deborah Wilcox-Altermatt, travelled from the US to attend the remembrance ceremony.