Janet Remmington is a researcher in South African literature and history. She was co-editor of Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present (Wits University Press, 2016), which won the 2018 Best Edited Collection Prize from South Africa's National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences. Other publications include articles in Journal of Southern African Studies, Studies in Travel Writing, and Research in African Literatures, as well as chapters in Sea Narratives: Cultural Responses to the Sea, 1600-Present (Palgrave, 2016), Fighting Words: Fifteen Books that Shaped the Postcolonial World (Peter Lang, 2017), and Edinburgh Companion to British Colonial Periodicals (forthcoming in 2022). She has a PhD in English and Related Literature from the University of York, and Masters degrees in English, Creative Writing, and African Studies from the Universities of Cape Town, Royal Holloway (London), and Oxford respectively, as well as a Postgraduate Diploma in Advanced Studies in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University. She is working on a literary and intellectual history of black South African travel and writing, c. 1850-2020. Janet combines her research and writing interests with her work as an editorial director at Routledge. She is a research associate at the Universities of York and the Witwatersrand.
‘Olive Schreiner, Black South African Connections and Race Questions’
This chapter reviews Schreiner’s views, networks, associations, and advocacy in relation to race in the late 19th- and early 20th-century South African contexts. While Schreiner’s anti-imperial, anti-war, anti-capitalist, and pro-women’s rights campaigning are well known, there is arguably less documented or interrogated around her linkages to black South African representatives and causes. Drawing from a range of sources, including letters, newspapers, and published writings, this chapter offers an assessment of Schreiner in relation to race and to the complex politics of black South African activism in the face of white settler colonialism and Unionism. If, as Jade Munslow Ong reflects, Schreiner might be considered an early #RhodesMustFall proponent, to borrow today’s language, it is productive to revisit the shared ground between Schreiner and black South African leaders such as Sol Plaatje, Walter Rubusana, John Tengo Jabavu, and John Langalibalele Dube in condemning black oppression. Yet, it is instructive also to unpick the historical specificities and textual traces around their takes on Rhodes and their varied political strategies in navigating the Anglo-Boer/South African War and in addressing post-War white-pact moves towards Closer Union. Furthermore, Schreiner’s support for causes such as the African franchise, campaigning against the 1913 Natives Land Act, and interventions on ‘race matters’ such as her contribution to the 1911 Universal Races Congress are examined in relation to the matrix of black socio-political activity in South Africa. While registering complexities, this chapter explores ways in which Schreiner was evoked, applauded, and assessed by black South Africans at a critical historical juncture for black rights and representation.