Two Men Who Made Their Mark On History
One man enhanced the legacy of a legend revered around the world.
Accomplishments of the other man include his involvement in a seminal court battle where the trial judge issued a pivotal ruling about racism that sparked enraged denials among authorities in that nation.
These two men made historic marks that had wide ranging impact in the countries that each adopted as their home.
While both of these men lived over 5,000-miles apart, they shared many similarities.
Both men experienced poisonous smacks from British colonial racism. Both men spent time in America. The civil rights/freedom struggles of African-Americans influenced both men. And, both men died recently, just days apart.
These two men are: Ngugi Githuka and Darcus Howe.
Historian Githuka often worked as a tour guide in Johannesburg, South Africa. Influential activist turned journalist Darcus Howe made his mark London, the capital of Great Britain.
Githuka is lauded as the man who spurred creation of the now famous Mandela House Museum in Soweto, the fabled black city located south of Johannesburg. This facility is the former home of Nelson Mandela, the legendary leader credited with transforming South Africa from racist apartheid to a non-racial democracy.
That small four-room house on Vilakazi Street in Soweto’s Orlando West section is now a facility filled with artifacts and mementos commemorating the life and sacrifices of Mandela.
Much of the time Mandela spent in that house from the late 1940s until his imprisonment in the early 1960s was with his second wife, Winnie, and their two daughters. Winnie Mandela became an anti-apartheid leader and target of the then racist/apartheid South African government during then her husband’s two-decade-plus imprisonment.
The tourists from inside and outside South Africa who flock to the Mandela House Museum daily know nothing about Githuka’s role in the creation of that facility. It took Githuka two years to convince Mandela’s family to support his vision of preserving the house as a museum.
The 1997 opening of the Mandela House Museum also spurred economic development in the surrounding area with the opening of restaurants, nightclubs and other businesses.
“Ngugi was an embodiment of an exceptional storyteller and in the great African tradition of oral history he could summon the smallest detail about events, people and places,” Dr. Shenid Bhayroo said.
Bhayroo, a journalism professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, has taken students to study in South Africa where he was born and worked as a journalist. Bhayroo said he specifically sought out Githuka for his first-time visitors because he was an “exquisite” storyteller.