Peter Henry Abrahams Deras (Peter Abrahams) was born in Vrededorp, Johannesburg’s largest Coloured and Asian slum, on 19 March 1919. Abrahams is a 'Coloured' South African, an identity he describes as “the half-caste community that was a byproduct of the early contact between black and white.” His father, James Henry Abrahams Deras was from Ethiopia, a son of landowners and slave-owners. He arrived in South Africa after seeing much of Europe. Abrahams grew up hearing stories about the great adventures his father had experienced. His mother, Angelina du Plessis, was a 'Cape Coloured'. Before Abrahams was born, his mother, a widow, was married to a 'Cape Malay' who had died, leaving her with two children. She had no other family except for her older sister Margaret (Mattie). Margaret was fair enough to “pass” (as white) and was married to a Scott “I remember my mother and father merging into each other in my mind. Together, they were my symbol of peace and laughter and security. (Abrahams, 1954)

His father passed away when Abrahams was young, which led to him being sent to live in a rural village called Elsburg, with distant family, Aunt Liza and Uncle Sam. Elsburg is a rural town in what is now known as the Gauteng Province. With his father’s passing away, “the order and stability that had been in my life dissolved. We had to leave the place that had been our home.” (Abrahams, 1954) At the age of seven his mother retrieved him from Elsburg and he returned to Johannesburg. Shortly after he was sent to live with his Aunt Mattie, as his mother had to look for work away from home, where his older sister Maggie and brother Harry were already living. He started helping by selling firewood and working at the smithy.

It was while working at the smithy that he was first exposed to books when a young white woman working in the office read him the story of Othello from Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare. It was this interaction and the prospect of being able to read more books that made Abrahams determined to go to school. After this incident, at the age of 11, Abrahams finally started school. He was admitted to the 'Coloured' school in Vrededorp and began a special program, completing three years of school in one. He was able to attend school regularly for three years where he learned to read and write, but Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare remained his favourite. As a student he had said that he wanted to be a writer so that he could have ‘cakes and ginger beer for breakfast, fish and chips for lunch and whole fowl at night’. The same day that he made that quip he was brought to the hospital in order to be treated for starvation. (Abrahams, 1942)

At fifteen Abrahams was forced to leave school when his aunt Mattie was arrested for selling skokiaan (an ‘illegal’ home brew).  He was forced to move in with his sister Maggie and her husband Charles. He first worked doing odd jobs such as carrying bags for white shoppers at the market and selling the Johannesburg Star (the local newspaper) at night. He then found work at a hotel. After a while the work at the hotel became too hard and his sister forced him to quit the job, sending him back to work at the market carrying bags. One day while trying to find work at the market he saw a man reading the newspaper Bantu World. This paper intrigued him, as he had never seen a paper with black men on the cover. While trying to take a closer look, the Black man reading the paper, surprised to find that Abrahams could read and had aspirations of becoming an author offered to help him find a job at the Bantu Men’s Social Centre.  

He went to work at the Bantu Men’s Social Centre as the office boy in Pathfinders, the black section of the Boy Scout Movement. In South Africa, even the Boy Scout Movement was divided along colour lines with a White movement, a Black movement, an Indian movement and a Coloured movement –yet Abrahams, a Coloured boy, found work with the Black movement. It was while working with the Pathfinders that Abrahams began to read African American writers. Abrahams recalls his time at the Bantu Men’s Social Centre and his exposure to the books there as follows:

“In the months that followed, I spent nearly all my spare time in the library of the Bantu Men’s Social Centre. I read every one of the books on the shelf marked: American Negro literature. I became a nationalist, a colour nationalist, through the writings of men and women who lived a world away from me. To them I owe a great debt for crystallizing my vague yearnings to write and for showing me the long dream was attainable”I realized, quite suddenly, that I was rapidly moving out of this Coloured world of mine.”(Abrahams, 1954)

While working at the Social Centre he enrolled in a correspondence course that he saw advertised in the Bantu World.  For ten shillings a month Abrahams took their “General Education” course. However, three months after beginning work at the Pathfinders office he was informed that they would have to let him go, as they were not getting enough business to justify having an office boy. It was then that his employer, Peter Dabula, suggested he apply to attend the Diocesan Training College in Grace Dieu near Pietersburg (now Polokwane, Limpopo Province), working there to afford his stay. As one biographer relates “the first step towards joining the non-white elite had been taken.” (Wade, 1972)

It was here amongst his white teachers, Father Woodfield, Father Jones and Father Adams that Abrahams recalls experiencing “the first white men whose colour I forgot.” (Abrahams, 1954). These men also had a big influence on his writing and his first poems were published while he was at Grace Dieu in The Bantu World, a white owned newspaper catering towards Black readers. While at College he also became a Christian, receiving confirmation and then his first communion at the hands of Father Woodfield. “I was a full member now of the fellowship of the Christ who offered life, who taught: ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’” (Abrahams, 1954) At the age of seventeen, towards the end of his second year at the College, Abrahams left school.  The reason he gave was that he did not want to be a teacher and it was a teachers’ training college.  However, he was also having a hard time reconciling his lessons and Christianity with the violent racism he experienced. Abrahams recalls trying to reconcile this as follows:

“What made it so very difficult for us was the fact that the equation did work out with the fathers”but we had proof that the rest of the white Christians of our land were not like the fathers and the sisters. The equation did not work out. And in the harshness of our young idealism we demanded that it work out as logically as a problem of mathematics. And it did not. Where was the error: in man or God?” (Abrahams, 1954)

However, the final straw occurred on a trip to his friend Jonathan’s home. On the way they stopped at a store to buy a loaf of bread. In Abrahams’ hurry to leave the store he collided with a 'White' man. “Disgust contorted his big tan face. He flung me away like one near the point of nausea through touching human waste”¦A booming voice, tinged with disgust rumbled something about a ‘black baboon’.” (Abrahams, 1954) That night, Abrahams left the school and headed home to Johannesburg.

After leaving Grace Dieu, Abrahams, through Father Woodfield’s contacts, was admitted to St Peter’s Secondary School, one of South Africa’s best schools for Blacks, just outside Johannesburg, in order to matriculate. Ezekiel Mphahlele was a classmate of Abrahams. Mphahlele went on to become a writer, academic, artist and activist from Pretoria. Heclearly remembers Abrahams from their school days: “I remember him vividly talking about Marcus Garvey”¦dreamily he said what a wonderful thing it would be if all Negroes in the world came back to Africa,” (Wade, 1972) sentiments foreshadowing Abrahams’ future belief in Pan-Africanism. Abrahams attributes a lot of his work and the work of others to Marcus Garvey:

“Without Garvey-ism we couldn’t be where we are today, Garvey’s ideas that influenced generations of black Americans, influenced people like Nkrumah, me as a boy” first and foremost, you must respect and love yourself and what you look like – Garvey comes first.” (Abrahams, Documentary)

Mphahlele also remembers admiring Abrahams’ writing, which he was constantly busy with and would often share with his classmates. “He used to tell us that he wanted to show the white man that he was equal to him.” (Wade, 1972) Abrahams, again with the help of Father Woodfield, found work at the South African Institute for Race Relations at the University of Johannesburg – it was there that Abrahams was exposed to “young men and women who seemed untouched by the racial disease of the land.” (Abrahams, 1954)

During his time at St. Peter’s, Abrahams became exposed to left wing politics through his interaction with a White couple living near the school. The young couple was the first White people to invite Abrahams into their home as a guest and through their friendship introduced Abrahams to Marxism. (Abrahams, 1954). To Abrahams, Marxism explained the racialism of the land. While his circle of White friends grew, it seemed to him that “only the Marxists seemed wholly free of any taint of racialism in their dealings with me and other non-Europeans.” (Abrahams, 1954) Not only did this interaction expose Abrahams to left wing politics but also highlights Abrahams’ continued ability to blur racial lines.  

A short time after leaving school in 1938, Abrahams moved to Cape Town in search of new opportunities. He wrote some poems that were published in newspapers such as the Standard and the Guardian and was involved with the Liberation League. He also spent time working as a teacher in the Cape Flats. The Cape Flats is a flat area situated to the southeast of the central business district of Cape Town. During apartheid the area was home to people that the government designated as non-White. His time in the Cape Flats ended a few months later as the environment took a toll on his health and he moved on to Durban.

It took Abrahams nearly three months to reach Durban from Cape Town but he finally arrived in June 1939 and found a small room with an Indian family. Upon arrival, as he knew no one in Durban, he made his way to the Liberal Study Group, where he was welcomed. The Liberal Study Group published a monthly bulletin and Abrahams became its editor. He travelled to Durban hoping to find a passage to England and therefore went to the docks on a regular basis to build up contacts. That September World War Two broke out.  Abrahams heard that there was a ship hiring crew.  He managed to bribe himself on board.

Abrahams stayed active in politics, through his writing as well as helping with Communist Party activities, until leaving South Africa as a member of the crew on a freighter during the outbreak of World War Two, heading to England in the hope of finding success as a writer. Abrahams first decided he would go to England while working at the Bantu Men’s Social Club. While others expressed a desire to go to America, authors such as Charles Lamb and John Keats compelled Abrahams to desire to journey to England. “I would go there because the dead men who called were, for me, more alive than the most vitally living. In my heart I knew my going there would be in the nature of a pilgrimage.” (Abrahams, 1954).

He went to find the flat of a friend from South Africa who was involved in the British Communist Party. Through these friends he found a job at a communist book distribution centre as well as a room in a comrade’s flat. Soon after his arrival in London, Abrahams became acquainted with George Padmore who wrote dispatches to be sent out to the colonies.  Abrahams described Padmore’s work as, “that small one-man operation was a major early version of a new, Third-World way of looking at the news.” (Posgrove, 2009) Whilst living in Durban and working as an editor for the Liberal Study Group’s monthly newsletter, Abrahams had received the dispatches sent out by Padmore. When reflecting on the operation later, Abrahams said, “It reminded him of Marcus Garvey’s Negro World carried from seaport to seaport by black seamen.” (Abrahams, 2000).

Padmore was the man to whom politically inclined Blacks gravitated. “Blacks have no powerful press, control no broadcasting stations, sit in no parliaments of the world, and therefore have no means of voicing their grievances.” (Padmore, 1939) Padmore was a Black Trinidadian who dedicated his life to giving voice to Black grievances. He was also at the center of the circle of Black writers and intellectuals that Abrahams joined upon his arrival in London who struggled for Black recognition, visibility and the right to be seen as political agents of their own destiny. According to Abrahams “George Padmore was the most important contact most of us when you get to London, the first Black man you looked for was George Padmore”¦pioneer of communication.” (Abrahams, Documentary) Together these writers, including African Americans such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Richard Wright, struggled against marginalization in the public sphere. These African intellectuals had Pan-Africanist sentiments and worked to bring about a world free from European rule. It was among this group of intellectuals that Abrahams moved away from Marxism and towards Pan-Africanism – his first political transition in his overarching quest for freedom.

In 1941, not long after Abrahams’ arrival in London, he married a white woman – Dorothy Pennington. (Ogungbesan, 1979). They had to move to Paris in order to finalize their marriage and while there lived among the peasants in Nemours. It was there that their son was born. Abrahams claims that it was during his time in Paris that he realized “the absurdity of colour judgments of any kind.”(Ogungbesan, 1979).

Peter Abrahams published his first full-length book, Dark Testament, a collection of short stories in 1942. At this same time he became a member of a small circle of African students and intellectuals that included Kwame Nkrumah(the first president and prime minister of Ghana) and Jomo Kenyatta (who later served as the first prime minister and president of Kenya). The members of Padmore’s community of writers struggled to extend the reach of their publications. As Black writers their racial identity counted against them, although sometimes it could also help. Despite having a shared racial identity, the members of the group were still working out a collective political one. Abrahams continued to fight to be published during the war despite difficult conditions. After the war Abrahams came together with Nkrumah and Padmore to organize the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, which energized London-based efforts for independence in Africa. Abrahams describes the Pan-African Congress as the most representative gathering of African delegates that the world has ever seen, and salutes Padmore as “was the spoke that held it all together”. (Abrahams, Documentary) Abrahams, however, eventually went his own way separating himself from the circle. Throughout this time his reputation as a writer as well as a “spokesman on the race issue” was steadily growing.

In the summer of 1946 Abrahams headed to Paris for the Paris Peace Conference. It was in Paris that Abrahams was introduced to the American writer Richard Wright. Padmore told Abrahams to get in touch with Wright, a leading American Black novelist and former communist. The meeting between Abrahams and Wright was a success and over the years Wright became an important mentor to Abrahams. He not only gave him feedback on his work but also introduced him to his publisher.

His ability to support himself through his writing was beginning to improve. In 1945 and 1946 a publisher in London, Dorothy Crisp, published two of his novels, Song of the City and Mine Boy.  Abrahams expressed the reception of Mine Boy through his correspondence with Wright, as follows, “so far the press over here has been kind, uniformly kinder than they’ve been to any other writing of mine.” (Posgrove, 2009). In fact, the only negative press to come out about Mine Boy was an article by Cedric Dover, a West Indian, ina new monthly called Median. What bothered Abrahams most about the negative review was ‘the veiled sneering, the assailing of my politics because they don’t follow the [party] “line”’(Posgrove, 2009).

Mine Boywas a turning point for Abrahams, establishing his international reputation. Kolawole Ogungbesan, the Nigerian Scholar, noted that Mine Boy was ‘the first South African novel written in English to attract international attention”(Ogungbesan, 1979). Furthermore, in 1946 the South African press and radio chose Mine Boy as one of the three books of the year. Abrahams describes the moment to Wright ‘you could have knocked me down with a feather.’(Posgrove, 2009) In Mine Boy Abrahams asserts his vision, that of ‘man without colour’, a world in which every man will be judged as an individual and where color will be irrelevant (Ogungbesan, 1979). This theme is continued in his subsequent novels where he places freedom of the mind above that of political independence. Abrahams sees Westernization as the only valid destiny open to Africans, believing that in order for the Black man to stand up and consider himself an equal, he must do so on White ground. (Ogungbesan, 1979). According to Ogungbesan, this explains the emphasis placed on interracial love in his earlier novels – it is a symbol of the freedom of the mind from hatred and fear.

While Abrahams was considered one of Padmore’s closest co-workers in the time after the Manchester Conference, he was also dealing with other pressing issues.  Despite the international acclaim of Mine Boy as well as the publication of The Path of Thunder by Wright’s publisher Harper in 1948, Abrahams was unable to find financial security through writing alone. He had to find alternative sources of income, taking on various jobs such as giving paid lectures for the Workers Education Association, a job that Padmore helped him find, as well as contributing to the Socialist Leader. (Posgrove, 2009) Before deciding to take part in helping Padmore publish the Pan-Africa journal he would have to see ‘how business shapes up’, putting his need for income as top priority. (Posgrove, 2009) Principally, he was trying to earn a living as a freelance writer after his break with the Communist Daily Worker due to the publication of his first novel Dark Testament as well as the Party’s discovery that he was not, in fact, a card-carrying member. As Abrahams expressed, “I wasn’t passionately interested in politics, I was interested in freedom – couldn’t have freedom without a movement but I wasn’t a party man, never have been, never will be – I worked for the idea not for the party”. (Abrahams, Documentary)

His break from the Communist Party, as well as his experiences within it, left a deep impression and influenced his work, forming his political views emphasizing the importance of the individual. “As a result of it I realized that people, individual people, would always be more important than causes for me” (Ogungbesan, 1979). These views are clearly seen in the novel, Wild Conquest, published in 1950. He also clearly expressed this sentiment on British Radio.

Padmore and his closest ally, Dorothy Pizer, however, were unimpressed. Abrahams, had appeared on the BBC Third Programme where he declared his intent to free himself from the burden of race, ‘As a writer, my work demands this liberation if I am to see more clearly, to understand more wholly’ (Posgrove, 2009). He was well aware that this sentiment could lead others to believe he was a ‘Negro who is anti-Negro’ (Posgrove, 2009). Padmore and Pizer felt his appearance on the BBC Programme was a betrayal. In a letter Pizer wrote to Wright she expressed ‘once a Coloured fellow gets on the BBC in any other programme than a colonial or commonwealth one, you can know for sure that he’s made his peace with the other side.’ 1952 (Posgrove, 2009).  Abrahams’ declaration of independence from both Black and White was meant to enable him to criticize the two. (Ogungbesan, 1979) Abrahams, however, saw it different, he felt that one needed “people who will question, with love, the movement – it is my movement I want to make sure it is clean” (Abrahams, Documentary)

This rift between Padmore and Abrahams had been growing in recent years. Abrahams had divorced his first wife, Dorothy Pennington, a political woman who Padmore was fond of, in 1948 and that same year had moved to Paris with his second wife, an artist, Daphne Elizabeth Miller. Abrahams describes Daphne as follows “Daphne was 18, she’s my friend, my partner, she fights with me more than anybody else.”(Abrahams, Documentary) Daphne was born in Indonesia in 1927 and came to England to attend a London art school where she met Abrahams. She says, “It was all very exciting and interesting and I learnt a lot about the world in the process.” (Abrahams, Documentary) Daphne, like his first wife Dorothy, was also a White woman, showing that Abrahams really did not see colour as an impediment in his relationships. Daphne and Abrahams are still married and have three children. She describes him fondly, “He’s a very interesting man, so interesting that we can’t stop talking to one another – we’re forever learning and curious and life is always one great challenge in one way or another”¦he’s never dull.” (Abrahams, Documentary)

In Paris his focus was on his writing and the growth of his family, losing touch with his former social circle of the Pan-African Federation. While Abrahams had published numerous books on life in South Africa and had managed to make a name for himself as a novelist, Dorothy Crisp, the publisher of Song of the City and Mine Boy had unfortunately gone out of business. He approached Allen and Unwin, the British publishers of his first book, Dark Testament, hoping they would take on his recent work, The Path of Thunder, yet was rejected as they claimed his books were not doing well on the British market. Harper, in the United States, that Wright had introduced him to, eventually published The Path of Thunder.  It did not come out in Britain until 1952.

Abrahams went back to South Africa in 1952. This trip was sponsored by the BBC Third Programme, the Observer and the New York Herald Tribune in Paris and had openly political intentions. Abrahams would go first to South Africa and then to Kenya to test the argument made by some Eastern African Whites that what prevailed there was not a ‘colour bar’ but a ‘culture bar’. It was felt that as Abrahams was a ‘westernized African’ he would be able to judge this argument. (Posgrove, 2009). Abrahams concluded upon his trip to South Africa that the ‘colour bar’ was most definitely in place. When going to visit his mother he was forced to travel on a bus specifically for ‘Coloured’ persons. Furthermore, he noticed continuing economic oppression based on colour. Some examples included the cramped living conditions they were subjected to as well as the substantially lower wages paid to Indian and Black workers for the same job as their White counterparts. (Posgrove, 2009) While in Johannesburg Abrahams set up shop in the offices of the African Drum, a monthly magazine financed by ‘enlightened whites’. Abrahams believed that the role of the press in the struggle for change was that of ‘a mirror in which the people could see themselves,’ in order to achieve a sense of balance, with the African Drum providing that mirror. (Posgrove, 2009)

Abrahams expressed himself ‘glad’ to leave to South Africa as his experiences there weakened the desire expressed just weeks earlier on the BBC Programme to free himself from racial resentment. ‘For six weeks I had lived with its sickness, its hatreds and its fears, and I was glad to get away. Yet I was also sorry to go, for I am a child of Goli”(Posgrove, 2009). Peter Abrahams, Return to Goli, was an account of his return to Africa for the first time since the war. “It was written like a travelogue, it was very personal and was enlivened by scenes, dialogue and portrayals of individuals.” (Posgrove, 2009) Abrahams meant the book ‘to reach the hearts and minds’ of both ‘whites’ and ‘non-whites’ who lived in Africa” (Posgrove, 2009).

In Kenya, a portion of his trip that was hardly mentioned in his subsequent book about his travels, he met with his former friend Jomo Kenyatta. Abrahams describes his impression of Kenyatta at this meeting as that of a ‘lonely man’ as he was alienated by his Western experiences. Abrahams saw his old colleague as having undergone a deep change, as he was unwilling to engage with the Whites in East Africa who looked down on him yet was lacking peers among his fellow Kenyans. Abrahams damaging assessment of Kenyatta was seen as a betrayal of their friendship as well as a public shaming. For this reason, among others such as the lack of political insight expressed in the novel in regards to the Black Kenyans’ movement to overthrow British dominance, as well as reasons unknown, Abrahams told the American editor who considered publishing Return to Goli that it was not a book he was proud of. (Posgrove, 2009).

After the visit to Africa, Abrahams really grew as a writer – a sign of this being that upon his return he began work on his autobiography, Tell Freedom. “The trip to South Africa forced Abrahams to take a journey into himself, into his origins, to determine his attitudes in life.” (Ogungbesan, 1979). His writing also shifted, after his return from South Africa he wrote only overtly political novels. Ogungbesan assumes that his trip must have convinced him that the bad state of Africans in a country where they are the majority must be due to a lack of political power. It is at this stage in his writing that there is a shift in focus from interracial relationships.  Abrahams chose instead to highlight the virtues inherent in the idea represented by the Commonwealth, a committee of nations which, respect one another’s separate identities while combining, in spite of racial differences, in the pursuit of mutual progress and world peace (Ogungbesan, 1979)

Abrahams was very critical of the Gold Coast and its chances for success after independence. Abrahams considered himself to be a hardheaded realist. However, his old friend and colleague Padmore described him as “a man who had sold his political soul for money and fame.” (Posgrove, 2009). Padmore said in a letter to Wright “I have not seen the lad in years. He has deserted all his poor friends who helped him out when he was even poorer than they. May God help him to prosper and end up in Hollywood. I can even provide him with a title: From Johannesburg Slum to Paradise”. (Posgrove, 2009) Yet once again Abrahams saw his actions in a different light, “You have to be critical, the moment you accept you cease to be useful, if you cannot look at things and say this is right this is wrong, go out of business!” (Abrahams, Documentary) His break from Padmore and the Pan-Africanist movement are indicative of a second shift in his political ideology – one that seeks to find a world free from race, focusing on individual freedom above all.

While Abrahams did not touch on the bitterness between himself and Padmore in his subsequent autobiography, the character based on Padmore in Wreath for Udomo (the same novel where he portrayed other members of his former social circle, including Kenyatta and Nkrumah in a negative and ominous light), was less than attractive. “Tom Lanwood, the greatest political writer and fighter Panafrica produced”in London, Lanwood was the brains trust behind the various colonial organizations”¦but when he is brought to Panafrica, he finds himself a fish out of water.” (Posgrove, 2009). Padmore had publicly expressed his distaste for the “native” and his preference for “civilized” life in London - proclaiming, “I hate primitiveness”I will fight for a free Africa and Asia, not live there” (Posgrove, 2009). Yet the Lanwood character also had traces of his former mentor Wright as well as of Abrahams himself. Wright, upon return from his trip to Africa, had realized that his blackness did not make him understand Africa – a truth that Lanwood too discovers upon his return to the region. Furthermore, like Abrahams, Lanwood is a man of mixed ancestry; he was born in Africa and then stays away for a longtime. Abrahams too had no patience with ‘tribal ways’. Abrahams pronounced himself “irritated very much by the low value assigned to individuals and revolted by a man having to go and wriggle his way on his belly to a Chief”(Posgrove, 2009).

In 1955 Abrahams was sent to Jamaica by the Colonial Office to write a popular history of the Island. Padmore’s reaction to this new situation was less than kind, “what a little rat” his mother and sister are rotting in Johannesburg and he is white-washing their oppressors for a few dollars” (Posgrove, 2009). Yet Abrahams’ book about the experience, Jamaica: An Island Mosaic (1957) clearly expresses his positive experiences of his time on the island. In fact, of all the plural societies Abrahams found Jamaica closest to his ideal and moved there with his family in 1959. He has lived in Jamaica ever since working as a commentator for Jamaican radio, writing for Holiday magazine and as the editor of the West Indian Economist. “In Jamaica, and in the stumbling and fumbling reaching forward of its people, is dramatized, almost at laboratory level, the most hopeful image I know of the newly emerging under-developed world.”(Abrahams, 1963)

In Jamaica, Abrahams believed he had discovered a near nonracial society, a place where his mixed race family could feel at home. His home in Jamaica was the first piece of land that his family owned; he bought the land in 1955 when it was pure bush. While Daphne was initially worried about moving and leaving the social security of England she eventually agreed and moved there with Abrahams and their three children. Abrahams explains “Jamaica is Africa to me and this particular piece of Jamaica is my home”. (Abrahams, Documentary) In Jamaica Abrahams worked first in public opinion and then went to Radio Jamaica doing commentary five days a week. He had to leave [because of] public opinion, as demonstrated in England, he refused to be reined in. He was also the editor of the West Indian Economist and is a staff writer for the Holiday Magazine. Abrahams's family still live in Jamaica today. 

Amongst his works are the following books he has written:

Mine Boy (1946)

The Path of Thunder (1948)

Wild Conquest (1950)

Tell Freedom; Memories of Africa (1954)

A Wreath for Udomo (1956)

A Night of Their Own (1965)

This Island Now (1966)

The View from Coyaba (1985)

Lights Out (1994)

The Fan (1995)

Peter Henry Abrahams Deras (Peter Abrahams)  passed away on 19 January 2017, at Red Hills, Store Andrew Parish, Jamaica. 

This article was written by Micayla Jacobs and forms part of the SAHO Public History Internship


Abrahams, Peter (1961) Tell Freedom. New York: Alfred A. Knopf|Abrahams, Peter (1963) The Real Jamaica. Jamaica: Holiday Magazine|Abrahams, Peter (2000) The Black Experience in the 20th Century. Indiana: Indiana University Press|Ogungbesan, Kolawole (1979) The Writings of Peter Abrahams. New York: Africana Publishing Company|Padmore, George (1936) How Britain Rules Africa. New York: Negro University Press.|Posgrove, Carol (2009) Ending British Rule in Africa: Writers in a Common Cause. Manchester: Manchester University Press|Wade, Michael (1972) Modern African Writers. London: Evans Brothers Limited.|"Peter Abrahams Documentary." UWItv. Web. 2012. <;.

  • Email to SAHO from Mr J. Rabe, South African High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica, dated 26 January 2017
Further reading list

Peter Abrahams (1919-2017): South African literary giant deserves acknowledgement in his home country, J Brooks Spector, 25 January 2017, Daily Maverick 

Peter Abrahams, whose novels detailed South Africa’s racial injustice, dies at 97,  Matt Schudel, Washington Post,  January 20, 2017

Peter Abrahams, a South African Who Wrote of Apartheid and Identity, Dies at 97 , William Grimes, The New York Times,  January 22, 2017

Peter Abrahams: The View From Coyaba, Jane Bryce, Caribbean Beat

Peter Abrahams’ life in Jamaica, Michael Burke, Jamaica Observer,  26 Janaury 2017

Biography of Peter Henry Abrahams, African Success 

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