Alfred Bitini Xuma is born, the seventh child born of Abraham and Elizabeth Xuma, an aristocratic Xhosa family living in Manzana Village in the Engcobo district of the Transkei.
Xuma attends the Wesleyan Mission School in Manzana.
After completing primary school, Xuma attends Clarkebury Boarding School, where he qualifies as a primary school teacher.
After the government begins to make distinction between the certificates granted to Europeans and Africans almost all the Clarkebury boarders walk out in protest against the inequalities in education.
Xuma begins to study teaching at the Martizburg Training Institute, after which he begins teaching at various schools in the Transkei.
Xuma starts working as a teacher at two primary schools; one in a settlement known as Newala and the other in Ntibani in the Transkei.
August: Xuma and two colleagues travel to East London, where they board a Union Castle steamer bound for the United States of America via Cape Town and Southampton, England.
20 September: Having been awarded a small Wesleyan Mission scholarship, Xuma arrives in the United States of America to further his studies at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, specialising in agriculture.
25 May: As one of the three top graduates, Xuma makes a speech on ‘Problems in Poultry Raising’ at Tuskegee Institute’s commencement ceremony.
13 July-October: In order to pay his outstanding debt to the Tuskegee Institute, Xuma travels to Birmingham, Alabama to find a job. He works at the American Cast Iron Pipe Company until his debt is paid. He then travels to St Paul, Minnesota.
February: After sitting the entrance examinations, Xuma is admitted to the University of Minnesota’s College of Agriculture.
Xuma joins Alpha Phi Alpha, a nationwide Black fraternity.
December 1919-January 1920: Xuma is part of the University’s delegation at a conference of Christian students in Des Moines, Iowa.
17 June: Xuma graduates with an Honours degree in Science from the University of Minnesota’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics.
June: Xuma travels to Wisconsin to attend the Lake Geneva YMCA student conference.
September: The University of Minnesota offers Xuma a position at the medical school. However, his marks at the end of the first semester were so low that the University granted him an ‘honourable dismissal’.
Xuma moves to Chicago for nine months and works as a shipping clerk at Chicago’s Methodist Book Concern to try and earn enough to cover further studies. To boost his academic qualifications, Xuma enrolls at Chicago’s Lewis Institute, taking classes in physics and French. However, Xuma is not readmitted at the University of Minnesota.
October: Xuma is accepted to study medicine at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
23 July: Xuma attends a dinner in honour of Sol Plaatje in Chicago.
October: Xuma transfers to Chicago’s Northwestern University to continue his medical studies.
July: A nationally syndicated newspaper publishes a story headlined ‘Poverty May End College Career of Young African’, which outlines Xuma’s financial difficulties. The article results in numerous donations to allow Xuma to continue his studies.
15 June: Xuma receives his four-year certificate in medicine at Northwestern’s commencement ceremony.
1 July: In order to be awarded his MD degree, Xuma begins a one-year internship at St Louis City Hospital.
June: Xuma graduates with an M.D. degree from Northwestern University.
July: While waiting to receive his passport from the British Consulate, Xuma does observation work at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
1 September: Xuma boards a German-bound steamer and then travels to Budapest, Hungary and works gaining experience in women’s diseases and midwifery. Xuma studies complex surgery at New St. Johns Hospital.
April: In order to sit for his qualifying exams and license to practice in the British Empire, Xuma travels to the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
October: Xuma becomes fully qualified in gynaecology, obstetrics and surgery. He is also awarded the Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.
November: Xuma sets sail for South Africa after spending 14 years studying overseas.
4 December: Xuma arrives back in South Africa on the RMS Saxon.
Xuma moves to Sophiatown and opens a surgery in the city centre, in a building opposite the Johannesburg Magistrates Court.
25 August: Clara Bridgman invites Xuma to speak at the Bridgman Memorial Hospital’s opening ceremony.
Xuma becomes a member of the Johannesburg Joint Council for Europeans and Africans.
January: Xuma is elected to the governing board of the Bridgman Memorial Hospital.
31 July: Xuma addresses a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Johannesburg.
7 September: In an article published in Umteteli, Xuma praises Rev. John DubeDDT Jabavu and Charlotte Maxeke for their leadership.
21 September: Xuma participates in a debate on segregation in Pretoria before a multi-racial audience. Sharing the podium are Selope ThemaSelby Msimang and Edgar Brookes.
Municipal officials ask Xuma to become a part-time Medical Officer of Health for Alexandra, a position he held for the next 25 years.
27 June-3 July: Xuma address a Conference of the European and Bantu Christian Student Associations at the University College of Fort Hare. The conference is attended by 300 delegates and Xuma speaks on ‘Bridging the Gap Between White and Black in South Africa.
Xuma testifies before the Native Economic Commission and Liquor Commission.
21 October: Xuma marries Amanda Priscilla Mason, from Liberia, at the Grahamstown Methodist Church.
November: Xuma chairs the first African Eisteddfod, featuring performances by African vocalists and instrumentalists. The event is such a success that it becomes an annual event.
Xuma’s book, Reconstituting the Union of South Africa or a More Rational Union Policy, is published.
May: Xuma makes an address before the Bantu Studies Club at the University of Witwatersrand.
June: Xuma’s wife gives birth to a daughter, Elizabeth.
October: Along with J.D. Rheinallt-Jones, Edgar Brooks and Charlotte Maxeke, Xuma is part of a South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) deputation to the Minister of Native Affairs to discuss the deteriorating living conditions of Africans.
Xuma becomes one of the Bantu Men’s Social Centre’s vice-presidents.
Due to his continual involvement in the Johannesburg Joint Council, Xuma is elected vice-chairman.
February: Xuma becomes an official member of the Wilberforce Institute’s board of trustees in the Transvaal.
July: At the annual SAIRR conference in Bloemfontein, Xuma delivers a paper entitled ‘Native Taxation’.
August: Xuma agrees to chair the educational session of AME Church’s national conference.
September: Xuma becomes the chair of the Wilberforce board’s teachers committee.
October: Xuma becomes the Wilberforce Institute’s interim treasurer.
Xuma delivers a speech entitled ‘The Indispensable Work of a Teacher’ to the Orange Free State African Teachers Association.
29 April: Xuma’s wife Priscilla dies suddenly after undergoing a Caesarean section for the birth of their son, Alfred Mtutuzeli.
In his statement to a government committee on African education, Xuma accuses the government of ignoring its responsibilities to the Black community.
Xuma writes an essay for Die Soeklig entitled ‘The Evil Effects of Political Differentiations Based on Race and Colour’.
15-18 December: The delegates at the first All African Convention (AAC), held in Bloemfontein, elect DDT Jabavu as president and Xuma as vice-president.
12-14 February: The government summons Xuma to join the negotiations with an AAC deputation on the Native Bills in Cape Town.
15 February: The ACC delegation rejects the government’s compromise to create a separate voters roll for Africans in the Cape. Despite this the Hertzog government later passes the Representation of Natives Act.
30 November: Xuma writes to JH Hofmeyr, Minister of Interior, Education and Public Health, and praises him for voting against the Native Bills.
28 May: Xuma sets sail for the USA on a talking tour.
July: Xuma begins traveling the American Midwest on a speaking tour to fundraise for various projects.
25 July: At a talk at Columbia University’s International House, Xuma meets Madie Beatrice Hall, a Masters student at Colombia University, while taking advanced classes there.
15 September: Xuma sets sail for London to begin a course in public health at London University’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
January: Xuma and DDT Jabavu speak at the Quaker-run Friends’ House in London.
The Research Students Association of the London School of Economics invites Xuma to give an address on ‘The position of the native in South Africa’.
February: Patrick Duncan invites Xuma to give a talk before Oxford University’s South African Society on African health.
April: Xuma addresses a meeting of the Methodist Laymen’s Missionary Movement.
21 June: Xuma gives a talk on imperialism in Africa sponsored by the London Society of Friends.
October: Xuma finishes his studies in London and leaves for South Africa.
November: On his return, Xuma resumes his participation in the Johannesburg Joint Council.
December: Xuma becomes the first African from South Africa to be awarded a Diploma in Public Health.
February: Xuma is elected to the executive committee of the Bantu Men’s Social Centre.
Xuma is present at the opening ceremony of the new AME Church-run health centre in Evaton, Johannesburg.
At the annual Mendi ceremonies – to commemorate the Black South African soldiers who died in World War I – Xuma speaks out against the government’s continued inattention to the African voice in South African affairs.
April: After months of letter writing, Madie Hall accepts Xuma’s marriage proposal and agrees to come to South Africa.
December: Rev James Calata invites Xuma to the African National Congress’s (ANC) annual conference in Durban. Xuma serves as the conference’s deputy speaker of the house.
March: Xuma becomes the physician-in-charge at the Crogman Community Clinic.
May: Stephen Oliphant nominates Xuma for the role of president of the ANC.
18 May: Just after her arrival in Cape Town, Madie Hall and Xuma are married at the Bethel AME Church.
June: Xuma is elected president of the Johannesburg Joint Council.
15-17 December: At the annual ANC conference, Xuma is elected president. He gives the go-ahead for the formation of a Congress youth league and nominates ET Mofutsanyana to serve as Secretary for Labour in his cabinet.
Xuma is elected Chairman of the Johannesburg Joint Council.
23 February: Xuma gives anaddressat the Mendi Memorial Celebration held at the Bantu Sports Grounds, Johannesburg and pays tribute to African servicemen who perished in the Mendi tragedy.
8 July: An ANC Deputation, comprising Xuma, SP Matseke and Selope Thema (who is later replaced by Mofutsanyana) meet with the Minister of Justice. To read the report of the meetingclick here.
August: Xuma publishes a statement entitled ‘The Policy and Platform of the African National Congress’ in the Communist Party of South Africa’s newspaper Inkululeko.
14-16 December: During his presidential address, Xuma declares that “... the African National Congress is the mouthpiece of the African people of the Union of South Africa. All its efforts are and must be concentrated upon raising the status of the African people from their semi-serfdom to citizenship.” To read more of Xuma’s presidential addressclick here.
March: Xuma organizes a deputation of Africans, including Rev Calata and ZK Matthews, to see Deputy Minister Reitz in Cape Town.
August: Xuma calls a meeting of the ANC executive to discuss the transgressions of the Cape African Congress. It is decided that the whole executive of the CAC should be suspended and elections held for new leaders.
June: ANC officials authorise Xuma to take control of the affairs of the Transvaal branch until elections can be held for provincial officials. Xuma holds the position for a year before elections are held.
December: Xuma opens the first ANC national office in Market Street, Johannesburg.
13-14 December: The ANC’s Atlantic Charter Committee, led by Xuma, meet in Bloemfontein and draw up a memorandum titled The Atlantic Charter from the Standpoint of Africans within the Union of South Africa. This becomes the basic policy statement on which all subsequent ANC documents are based. Xuma, with the help of Bram Fischer, also drafts a new constitution for the ANC which allows membership of all races, eliminates the House of Chiefs and gives women equal right within the Congress.
15-17 December: Xuma is elected for a second term as president of the ANC.
21 February: The leaders of the newly formed ANC Youth League – Nelson MandelaWilliam NkomoJ. Congress Mbata and Walter Sisulu – meet with Xuma at his home to discuss the League’s proposed charter.
March: Xuma publishes a statement in Bantu World giving his support to the newly formed anti-pass campaign.
Xuma agrees to act as trustee of the anti-pass campaign.
April: Moses Kotane and Xuma begin speaking at anti-pass demonstrations all over the country.
20-21 May: Xuma presides over a national anti-pass conference held at the Gandhi Hall in Johannesburg. The conference elects Xuma as chair and Dr. Yusuf Dadoo as deputy chair of an anti-pass working committee.
Xuma’s book, Africans’ Claims in South Africa, is published.
April: With the anti-pass campaign losing momentum, Xuma calls an emergency conference of the anti-pass committee.
8 May: Xuma makes a statement entitled ‘Africans and San Francisco’.
August: At a conference of Black South African trade unions, Xuma reiterates the Congress’s support for higher wages and the recognition of African trade unions.
January: Xuma is able to convince representatives of the Bantu Welfare Trust to award the ANC with a ₤200 grant to cover their expenses for 1944-1945 and ₤100 for 1946.
14 January: Xuma issues a statement on the African Worker.
June: A full conference of the Anti-Pass Council is held and Xuma addresses the conference stating that the pass laws were the ‘very foundation of economic exploitation’ (Walshe, 1970: 312).
26 July: Xuma writes to the members of the Natives Representative Council (NRC) to convince them to adjourn until the government reverses its course against the mineworkers’ strike.
September: Xuma initiates a plan to host an emergency conference of all Africans to try and determine the next step in the campaign to obtain full citizenship for all Africans.
6-7 October: Xuma’s emergency ANC conference is held in Bloemfontein.
21 October: Xuma leaves for the United States. He is an unofficial delegate at the United Nations where he assists in lobbying against South Africa’s plans to incorporate South West Africa (Namibia) into the Union.
9 March
As part of efforts to unite anti-apartheid organisations, Xuma signs a Joint Declaration of Cooperation, known as the ‘Doctors Pact’, with Dr Naicker from the Natal Indian Congress and Dr Dadoo from the Transvaal Indian Congress. To read Xuma’s statement click here.
21 March: As part of the publicity campaign against the upcoming national elections,
Xuma issues a flyer, To All Africans and Friends of Justice, which calls for, among others, the abolition of the Pass Laws and the removal of Land Restrictions against Africans in urban and rural areas. Click here to see the full list of demands.
4 May: Xuma presides over a mass rally in Johannesburg as part of the anti-election campaign.
11 May: On behalf of the ANC, Xuma responds to the proposals made by Prime Minister Jan Smuts on restarting the Native Representative Council.
April: Xuma is invited to deliver the opening address at the annual conference of the Transvaal Indian Congress.
5 April: Xuma issues a statement on the upcoming general elections.
August: Xuma and Rev. Calata call a special ANC conference of the executive committee to formulate a response to the victory of the National Party.
3 October: In an attempt to end the rift between the AAC and ANC, Xuma calls a meeting of 12 leaders. The leaders sign ‘A Call for Unity’.
25 November: Xuma sends a cable to the UN responding to a statement made by Eric Hendrik Louw.
20 January: The ANC Working Committee issues a statement signed by Xuma on the Durban Riots.
6 February
Representatives of the ANC, AAC and the SAIC attend a conference in Durban. In a joint statement, delivered by Xuma, the delegates condemn the exclusion of Africans and Indians in the commission appointed to investigate the riots.
5 December: ANCYL members Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo meet with Xuma at his home to brief him on the Youth League’s position – they would support his re-election provided he formally endorses the Programme of Action. Xuma rejects the League’s proposal.
15-17 December: At the ANC’s annual conference Xuma is replaced as ANC President by Dr James Moroka.
Xuma becomes involved in setting up the Xuma African National School Fund to assist with the funding of education for African children.
18 March: In a press release published in Bantu World, Xuma clarifies his decision to resign from the ANC’s national executive.
After the release of Kwame Nkrumah, Xuma sends him a cable congratulating him.
March: Xuma unveils a monument to the Xhosa poet SEK Mqhayi in the Cape Province.
April: After the government publishes its plans to resettle Sophiatown, Xuma calls a meeting of fellow landowners. They formed the Anti-Expropriation and Proper Housing Movement.
23 May: Xuma speaks at the funeral of former ANC president SM Makgatho.
7 June: Xuma speaks at the funeral of Pixley Seme.
November: After some objections, in an interview for Advance, Xuma states that the defiance movement is the only way Africans can air their grievances.
Xuma makes a statement, published in the Bantu World and Rand Daily Mail, calling for the government to hold consultations with African political leaders.
Xuma travels to Northern and Southern Rhodesia. However, the reason for the trip remain unclear.
April: Xuma takes part in a multiracial conference on South Africa’s future sponsored by the SAIRR. The conference is held at Adams College and attended by prominent African and Afrikaner leaders.
August: The SAIRR sponsors a conference on the Western Areas removal scheme which is held at the University of the Witwatersrand. Xuma accepts an invitation to attend.
December: Xuma gives an interview on the removals to the American CBS television programme See It Now, hosted by Edward R Murrow.
6 February: After orders are issued in January for the removal of people from the Western Areas, Xuma, in interview with the Sunday Times, states that he will not move or sell his home.
23 April: In a statement in the Bantu World, Xuma calls on African children to end the boycott against the Bantu Education Act and return to school.
December: Xuma drafts a letter setting out his criticisms of the Congress Alliance and sends it to the ANC’s annual conference, sparking controversy. However, the ANC leadership refuses to read the letter in its entirety.
At the conference of the Inter-denominational African Ministers Federation, Xuma is elected with 13 others to draft a response to the homelands proposal.
28 January: The Bantu World publishes ‘Dr. Xuma’s Letter Congress Would Not Read’.
1 February: In an attempt to end the Alexandra Bus Boycotts, Xuma along with other ‘moderate’ African leaders and members of the Johannesburg City Council, attends a meeting convened by Ray Philips.
9 March
After receiving much criticism over a meeting with the government to resolve the Bus Boycotts, Xuma writes a letter to the World defending his position.
December: Xuma assists in sponsoring a multiracial conference, which takes place at the University of the Witwatersrand and is attended by approximately 600 delegates.
3 December: The Native Affairs Secretary grants Xuma’s application to travel to England – to visit his first wife’s family – as well as to Ghana, Nigeria and the Belgian Congo.
4 December: Xuma leaves on his overseas trip.
December: Xuma hosts Dr Hastings Banda, leader of the independence movement in Nyasaland (now Malawi), at his home in Sophiatown.
December 1958-February 1959: Xuma meets with representatives of the South African Bureau for Racial Affairs (SABRA).
17 February: Xuma signs a contract to have a new home built at 1401 Mtipa Street, Dube.
June: Xuma is finally forced to vacate his home of 30 years in Sophiatown.
March: The Native Affairs Department grants Xuma’s application to travel overseas but only to the USA and not to the United Kingdom, Western Europe or the Caribbean.
8 April: Xuma flies from Jan Smuts airport to London and New York.
12 January: Xuma accepts a government- organised meeting, along with Dr William Nkomo and KT Masemola, with UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold.
May: Xuma is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and, despite major surgery, his condition deteriorates.
24 January: Xuma slips into a coma.
27 January: Xuma dies at Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg.
1 February: Xuma’s funeral takes place. After a private ceremony at his home in Dube, Xuma’s body is taken in procession to the Donaldson Community Centre in Orlando. The service is conducted by AME Bishop Francis Gow with Rev James Calata, Dr Silas Molema, Dr James Moroka, JR Rathebe, Patrick Lewis and R.J van Buuren in attendance. Xuma is then buried at Brixton Cemetery, Johannesburg, next to his first wife.
27 January: Madie Hall-Xuma unveils a tombstone for her husband at Brixton cemetery.
Xuma’s house in Sophiatown, one of two in the area to escape demolition, is declared a national monument.

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