Abrahams, Peter

Abrahams, Peter,

1919–2017, South African novelist and journalist, b. Peter Henry Abrahams Deras. Though he lived mostly in exile, he exposed the injustices of the apartheid system and the politics of race in his native land in his works. A Marxist, he edited a Durban socialist magazine before, in 1939, he left for London, where he edited the Communist Daily Worker. There he came to know and be influenced by such black nationalists as Jomo KenyattaKenyatta, Jomo
, 1893?–1978, African political leader, first president of Kenya (1964–78). A Kikuyu, he was one of the earliest and best-known African nationalist leaders.
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 and Kwame NkrumahNkrumah, Kwame
, 1909–72, African political leader, prime minister (1957–60) and president (1960–66) of Ghana. The son of a goldsmith, he was educated at mission schools in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and became a teacher.
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 and such writers as Richard WrightWright, Richard,
1908–60, American author. An African American born on a Mississippi plantation, Wright struggled through a difficult childhood and worked to educate himself.
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 and James BaldwinBaldwin, James,
1924–87, American author, b. New York City. He spent an impoverished boyhood in Harlem, became a Pentecostal preacher at 14, and left the church three years later.
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. Abrahams first attracted international notice with the novel Mine Boy (1946), a story of a black diamond miner and the mixed-race woman he loves that was the first work to lay bare South Africa's racial injustices. His next novel, The Path of Thunder (1948), in which a black South African returns to his village to start a school, fully established his literary reputation. In 1957 he went to Jamaica to write a history of the island, Jamaica: An Island Mosaic, and he then moved there permanently, working as a magazine editor and radio commentator. His other novels include A Wreath for Udomo (1956), A Night of Their Own (1965), This Island Now (1966), his only one set exclusively in Jamaica, and The View from Coyaba (1985). His early South African stories are collected in Dark Testament (1942); Return to Goli (1953) is his account of a journey to Africa.


See his Tell Freedom (1954), and The Black Experience in the 20th Century: An Autobiography and Meditation (2001); biography by P. Wade (1971); studies by K. Ogungbesan (1979) and R. Ensor (1992).