The Man Who Escaped: Mark Mathabane

Anvitha Kachinthaya, Staff Writer



Born into poverty in the ghettos outside of Johannesburg, South Africa in 1960, Mark Mathabane’s early life was a struggle for survival. He lived in a tiny, illegal, two-room shanty with his mother, father, and growing list of siblings. All around him was the constant fear of police raids and brutal gang wars, as well as the eternal search for food to drive away a little bit of the hunger that gnawed at his and his family’s bellies. Growing up during apartheid, a time of extreme widespread racial discrimination, greatly affected the way he viewed the world. Blacks were seen as inferior to whites, and kept separate by a system that ensured that society would remain that way for a long time to come. While hundreds of black children died every day from a lack of food and sanitation, a few miles away, the white population of Johannesburg lived in luxury, oblivious to the state of their peers.


Despite Mathabane’s harsh beginnings, he managed to acquire an education for himself with his family’s support and steel-like determination to find a better life. Mathabane won a tennis scholarship to an American college, which was his golden ticket out of South Africa, and eventually became a successful writer and lecturer in the United States.


To educate the world about the reality of apartheid, Mark Mathabane wrote Kaffir Boy, a book that is read today in schools across the United States, including Dublin High School. The book holds nothing back, and tells the gripping truth of a boy’s life growing up in the black ghettos. The story is inspiring, and already has plans of becoming a feature film.


Additional books by Mark Mathabane include, Kaffir Boy in America: An Encounter with Apartheid, a continuation about his experiences in the United States, Love in Black and White: The Triumph of Love over Prejudice and Taboo, the story of his interracial relationship with a white woman and the obstacles they faced, and African Women: Three Generations, a narrative of the struggles of three generations of women in Mathabane’s family. He has also written Ubuntu, Miriam’s Song, and The Proud Liberal.


Don’t miss the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Mark Mathabane in person at Dublin High School on May 24, during lunch in the Center for Performing Arts!