Former Student, South African Author To Speak at Limestone

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 9:00am
mathabane photo

A tennis scholarship to Limestone College in the 1970s helped Mark Mathabane escape from the brutality of the apartheid system in South Africa. On March 3, he returns to Gaffney for a lecture on his book Kaffir Boy, which will soon be turned into a major motion picture.

“An Intimate Evening With Mark Mathabane” will take place at 7 p.m. at Fullerton Auditorium. The general public is welcome to attend, and admission is free.

Mathabane’s childhood was dominated by fear, poverty and starvation. At one point, he became so miserable that he attempted suicide. Eventually, his grandmother became a gardener for a family that introduced him to books and the game of tennis. Inspired by black American tennis player Arthur Ashe, he would go on to join a high school tennis team and participate in tournaments.

Wimbledon tennis star Stan Smith met Mathabane at the South African Championships in Johannesburg in 1976, the same year that he changed his name from Johannes to Mark to hide his identity from the South African government. Smith took Mathabane under his wing and that ultimately led to his earning a scholarship to Limestone in 1978. After one year, he left Limestone and moved to Saint Louis University.

Following that, Mathabane attended Quincy College in Massachusetts in 1981 and then moved to Dowling College in Oakdale, NY. While attending Dowling, he became the first black editor of the school magazine. Mathabane graduated cum laude from Dowling with a degree in Economics in 1983. He also pursued graduate level studies at Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, FL, and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. He later received an honorary doctorate from Wittenberg University in Springfield, OH.

In 1986, Mathabane penned his autobiography Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa. The book has won the prestigious Christopher Award for inspiring hope, and it reached number one on the Washington Post Bestseller’s List and number three on the New York Times Bestseller’s List. It has also been chosen by the American Library Association for inclusion on the list of “Outstanding Books for the College-Bound and Life-Long Learners.” Kaffir Boy even caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey who featured Mathabane on her talk show.

Mathabane had his first visit to the White House in 1993 after being invited by President Bill Clinton, who had read Kaffir Boy. From 1992-1993, he served as a White House Fellow under Clinton and assisted him with his educational policies.

“We are so excited to welcome back a former Limestone student who has gone on to become such an important and admired author,” said K.C. Barnhill, a College official who is assisting with organizing the event on March 3. “We encourage everyone to come out and enjoy this unique opportunity.”

Mathabane’s other book titles include Love In Black and White: The Triumph of Love over Prejudice and Taboo, African Women: Three Generations, Ubuntu, Miriam’s Song, and Proud Liberal, among others.

In 2000, Mathabane established the non-profit organization Magdalene Scholarship Fund, which he named after his mother. The fund's mission is to create hope in an impoverished, bleak part of the world by providing scholarships, books, uniforms and school supplies for needy children attending Bovet Primary School in Alexandra Township, South Africa.