Born on March 3, 1919 in Vrededorp, a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, Peter Abrahams was a writer, journalist, broadcaster and very vocal apartheid critic. He adopted Jamaica as his home for about 61 of his 97 years on earth, and contributed immensely to the Jamaican literary, political and media landscape. His death in Rock Hall, St. Catherine, Jamaica, on January 18, 2017 was mourned as a loss of one of the greatest South African black prose writers and one of Jamaica’s most outstanding and beloved media icons. His funeral service took place on Thursday, February 9, 2017 at the Church of the Transfiguration in Meadowbrook, St Andrew, Jamaica. Here are 15 things you probably did not know about this literary giant.
1. He was born Peter Henry Abrahams Deras in a poor village in Johannesburg, South Africa and changed his name to Peter Abrahams.
2. His father was an Ethiopian who settled in Johannesburg to work in the gold mines. His mother was Angelina DuPlessis, was colored, the daughter of a black father and a white French mother.
3. His father died when he was about six years old, and he was the apprentice to a tinsmith.
4. He attended teachers’ college: Diocesan Training College in Grace Dieu, and taught in Cape Town, South Africa.
5. He was exiled from his homeland South Africa after being accused of treason by the government, and left when he was 20 years old.
6. He was a Pan-Africanist and was acquainted with great names in African and Caribbean history such as Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, James Baldwin and George Padmore.
7. He was the publicist for the Manchester Conference (of Pan-African leaders) in Engalnd in 1945.
8. He worked as a journalist in England for publications such as the Daily Worker and The Observer.
9. He published five books between 1942 and 1950 alone.
10. He wrote and published 12 books in his entire lifetime. They were:
- Dark Testament (1942)
- Song of the City (1945)
- Mine Boy (1946)
- The Path of Thunder (1948)
- Wild Conquest (1950)
- Return to Goli (1953)
- Tell Freedom: Memories of Africa (1954)
- A Wreath for Udomo (1956)
- A Night of Their Own (1965)
- This Island Now (1966)
- The View From Coyaba (1985)
- The Black Experience in the 20th Century (2000)
11. He came to Jamaica in 1956 at the invitation of the British Colonial Office (and then Prime Minister Michael Manley), to write a book about the island. The book was Jamaica: An Island Mosaic.
12. He fell in love with Jamaica and chose to live here. He called his home in Red Hills, St Andrew, Jamaica, ‘Coyaba’.
13. He was a friend of Prime Minister Michael Manley. They shared similar socialist leanings and interest in books, poetry, political ideas and art.
14. He broadcast political commentaries on Radio Jamaica for 40 years. He was a news commentator until he was 80.
15. To mark his 90th birthday, the University of the West Indies staged a symposium on March 11, 2009 at its Mona campus.
Gleaner stories on Abrahams’ life and death:
- Long-Time Journalist Peter Abrahams Dies At 97
- Literary Icon Peter Abrahams Dead
- Peter Abrahams Still Relevant – Allen
- A Chat With Peter Abrahams
Other sources online: