PLAATJE, Solomon T. (1876-1932)
Plaque erected in 1986 by Greater London Council at 25 Carnarvon Road, Walthamstow, London, E10 6DW, London Borough of Waltham Forest
Writer, Campaigner for African Rights
Literature, Politics and Administration
SOLOMON T. PLAATJE 1876-1932 Black South African Writer and Campaigner for African Rights lived here
The South African writer Solomon T Plaatje was a significant campaigner for African rights and played a pioneering role in the emergence of African literature. He is commemorated with a blue plaque at 25 Carnarvon Road in Leyton.
Plaatje was born into the seTswana-speaking BaRolong people in the Orange Free State, South Africa, and in 1894 entered the Cape Civil Service. In 1902 he left to become a newspaper editor, and in 1911 began to write articles for English-language papers. The following year, Plaatje was one of the founders of the South African Native National Congress, later the African National Congress, and was appointed General-Secretary.
He made his first trip to London between May 1914 and January 1917 as a member of a congress deputation sent to protest against the Natives’ Land Act of 1913, which deprived Africans of the right to acquire non-African land. Shortly after his arrival, Plaatje found lodgings with a Mrs Timberlake at 25 Carnavon Road, and this remained his home until mid- to late 1915, when he moved to 33 Alfred Road in Acton.
While at number 25, Plaatje wrote most of Native Life in South Africa (1916). His second major work, the historical novel Mhudi, was largely completed in London in 1920 during Plaatje’s second of three visits to the capital, though it was only published ten years later. This was the first novel in English known to have been written by a black African. By the time of his death, Plaatje was regarded as a major spokesman for his people.