1872 – 1940
Who was Abdullah Abdurahman?
Abdullah Abdurahman was a South African politician and physician, born in Wellington, South Africa. He was the first coloured city councillor of Cape Town, and leader of the anti-apartheid movement African Political Organisation established in 1902.
Abdurahman was the son of relatively affluent Muslim Cape Malays, and his grandparents were slaves who had bought their freedom. After receiving a good British education in Wellington and Cape Town, he went to Glasgow to study medicine in 1888, qualifying as a doctor in 1893. Upon returning to South Africa he sat up a thriving private practice in Cape Town. In 1904 he was elected Cape Town's first non-European city councillor, a position he held almost uninterrupted until his death. As city councillor he worked to improve the conditions of the coloured community, especially within the field of education; he helped set up the first secondary schools for coloured people in Cape Town.
The greatest political achievements, however, of Abdurahman’s political life, were connected to his involvement with the African Political Organisation. Elected president in 1905, his contribution to the party's success was so great that the party was often jokingly referred to as Abdurahman's Political Organisation. The party's goal was to fight the increasing racial oppression in the country, initially only on behalf of non-African coloured. Abdurahman unsuccessfully led two delegations to London to secure franchise rights for coloured before the creation of the Union of South Africa. Later, between 1927 and 1934, Abdurahman and his party would start working closer with black African political leaders, in an attempt to create a united front, but this came to little. By the late 1930s, other political parties, such as the more radical National Liberation League, had taken the initiative.
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