Fonds AD1433 - Joint Council of Europeans and Africans records

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Joint Council of Europeans and Africans records


  • 1921 - 1973 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

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The black-white joint councils appeared under a variety of names - Europeans and Africans/Non-Europeans/Bantu/Natives, according to the accepted nomenclature of the time. There were, in addition, Coloured-European and Indo-European joint councils. In only two instances did a joint council include Africans, Europeans and Coloureds (Bloemfontein and Umtata) and in only one case (Johannesburg) was there a separate council for European and African Women.

The joint councils owed their inspiration to two Americans, Dr. James Aggrey, who was black, and the Rev. Thomas Jesse Jones who was white. They came to South Africa in 1921 as members of' a commission sent by the Phelps-Stokes Foundation to enquire into education for Africans. They were deeply distressed by the signs of racial tension and advocated the introduction of inter-racial councils which had proved successful in the American south. They persuaded black leaders and white liberals, in particular C.T. Loram {Chief Inspector of Education in [Natal) and J.D. Rheinallt Jones (Secretary for the Witwatersrand Council of Education) to form racially mixed councils, adapting, where available, the native welfare societies, composed solely of whites.

The first joint council was established in Johannesburg in 1921. Soon joint councils sprang up in other towns throughout South Africa and also in Southern Rhodesia and the need became obvious for a national organisation. This resulted in the formation of the South African Institute of Race Relations in 1929 but joint councils continued to exist. There was a close relationship between the Institute and the joint councils. The Institute's secretariat helped to send out circulars and Institute staff such eel J.D. Rheinallt Jones, Ngakane and A.L. Saffery travelled the country encouraging the formation of new councils and trying to resurrect defunct ones. Despite efforts to link joint councils by newsletters, conferences and the Consultative Committee, essentially each council operated on its own and stood or fell according to the enthusiasm of its members.

The people who participated in joint councils were mostly from the professions. There were clergy of all denominations, including the Dutch Reformed Church, and without their help the councils could not have survived. From the universities there were people like E. Brookes, M. Hodgson (later Mrs Ballinger), L.A. Hoernlee, D.D.T. Jabavu and W.M. Macmillan. There were lawyers like D. Molteno, O.D. Schreiner and W.H. Ramsbottom, journalists like R.T. Mackenzie, R.F. Selope Thema and H. Selby Msimang, civil servants like C.T. Loram and Major J.F. Herbst, municipal officials like G. Ballenden, head of the Native Affairs Department of Johannesburg City Council and businessmen like J.H. Pim and M. Webb.

The aims of joint councils were:

  1. To promote the well-being of the Union and good relations between the European and Non-European peoples through discussion and practical co-operation.

  2. To investigate and deal with any matter affecting the relations of the races.

  3. To initiate or support measures for the amelioration of social and economic conditions, particularly within the Council's own areas.

  4. To make representation on specific matters to Governmental and other authorities.

  5. To publish the results of discussions and investigations on racial matters.

  6. To enlighten the public and create a sound public opinion on racial questions.".

Fundamental to all these objectives was the fact that a joint council involved the races working together. While not achieving all their aims they were instrumental in having improvements made in the living conditions of Non-Europeans, particularly in having clinics, creches and schools built. They took a strong line on questions of broad policy issues such as the Colour Bar legislation and organised campaigns to make the people's feelings known to government.

The joint councils had varying fortunes from those which had only a brief existence to others which functioned far many years such as Johannesburg (1921-1955), Grahamstown (1921-1973), Port Elizabeth (1924-1952), Pietermaritzburg, (1927-1960) and Pretoria (1934-1963). Lack of visible achievements led blacks to withdraw from the joint councils and join political organisations. Nevertheless, the joint council movement was an interesting experiment in race relations, in learning to work together within the existing system to bring about changes.

Archival history

The records of the Joint Council of Europeans and Africans were part of the "R.J." (J.D. Rheinallt Jones) collection of the South African Institute of Race Relations, transferred to the University in 1972. Rheinallt Jones was the director of the Institute from 1930 to 1947. In view of the size and importance of the Joint Council records, it was decided to make them a separate collection.

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Scope and content

Subjects covered are the social and economic conditions of Blacks, Coloureds and Indians with particular reference to locations, health, housing, education, land, poll tax, labour, the urban Black, the liquor problem, juvenile delinquency, relations with the police and discriminatory legislation.

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System of arrangement

Arrangement is in four sections: A. National, B. Regional, C. Individual Joint Councils (arranged alphabetically), and D. Joint Councils outside South Africa. Each section is further sub-divided into correspondence, minutes, memoranda, press clippings and printed items.

The inventory lists the number of items in each file, gives the inclusive dates and the names of the principal correspondents, indicates the subject field and itemises anything of particular importance. A brief sketch of the Joint Council movement is included and a comprehensive index of all personal names mentioned in the inventory and of selective subject fields has been provided.

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Copyright Historical Papers Research Archive, The Library, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Archivist's note

Compiled by Anna M. Cunningham, April 1984

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