A History
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Dimensions and Pages: 210 x 180 mm, 526 pp
  • EAN: 9781868144808
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 290.00
  • Recommended Price (USD): 39.95

Alexandra: A History, is a social and political history of one of South Africa’s oldest townships. It begins with the founding of Alexandra as a freehold township in 1912, and traces its growth as a centre of black working class life in the heart of Johannesburg, to the post-apartheid era. Declared as a location for ‘natives and coloureds’, Alexandra became home to a diverse population where home-owners, tenants, squatters, hostel-dwellers, workers and migrants drawn from every corner of the country converged to make a life in the city.

The stories of ordinary people are at the core of the township’s history. Based on scores of life history interviews, the book portrays in vivid detail the daily struggles and tribulation of Alexandrans. A focus point is the rich history of political resistance, in which civic movements and political organisations – such as the ANC, Communist Party and socialist organisations like the Movement for Democracy of Content – organised bus boycotts, anti-removal and anti-pass campaigns, and mobilised for housing and a better life for residents. But the book is not only about politics. It tells the stories of daily life, of the making of urban cultures and of the infamous Spoilers and Msomi gangs. Over weekends Alexandra comes alive as soccer matches, church services and shebeens vie for the attention of residents.

Alexandra: A History highlights the social complexities of the township, which at times cause tension between different segments of the population, such as between the ‘bona fides’ and amagoduka, stand-owners and tenants or hostel-dwellers and township residents. Above all else the community spirit of the people of Alexandra, expressed in a fiercely loyal love for the place, has repeatedly triumphed and endured.

Philip Bonner and Noor Nieftagodien are researchers based at the History Workshop, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

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