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Ezekial Mphalele

February 3, 2011

Ezekial Mphalele (1919-2008) was a South African author, academic and activist. He was a touted teacher in South Africa, but was banned from teaching by the apartheid government in 1951. Though initially denied a passport to travel to Nigeria, the South African government finally granted his request in September of 1957. He  spent the next 20 years in exile going from Nigeria to Kenya, Zambia, France, and the United States. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969. While in the U.S. Mphalele earned a doctorate from the University of Denver and taught Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, becoming a full professor in 1974. Mphalele returned to South Africa in 1977 and changed his name to Es’kia.

In 1982 Es’kia Mpahlele received an honorary doctorate from Penn. In 1985, President F. Sheldon Hackney called for donations to an organization started by Es’kia Mphalele, the Council for Black Education and Research. The Council was described as, “a non-formal educational organization operated by black educators in the segregated townships of South Africa”. President Hackney went on to say that Penn was proud to support Mphalele’s mission saying, “Zeke Mphalele has relinquished the secure life of a tenured professor at Penn and returned into the jaws of apartheid to try to overcome the South African regime’s efforts to force ignorance upon blacks.”

Juna Dawson-Murray
SAS ‘11

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