The Reverend John Langalibalele Dube,
the first president the African National Congress will always be remembered for his strength of character, discipline and patriotism in South Africa. He had friends and colleagues from all over the world who supported him in his quest to liberate the majority of South Africans from the jaws of apartheid.
William and Ida landed in Inanda, North of Durban, as missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners in 1881.
They didn’t only preach against injustice but they were also willing to go down into the trenches to fight on the side of the oppressed.
They became the “adoptive” American parents of Reverend John Langalibalele Dube.
In 1887 they accepted a desperate Zulu mother’s plea to take Dube to the U.S. to give him the decent education that only white boys could get in South Africa in those days. They honored this responsibility at a great cost to themselves and to their family. They raised and guided Dube to become one of the most talented leaders in great times of adversity.
William and Ida fought head-on the noxious colonial policies that led to the adoption of the 1913 Natives Land Act by mobilizing blacks in an unprecedented manner in South Africa.
In 1909 they founded the Zululand Industrial Improvement Company, the first company in South Africa’s history with shareholdings shared between a couple of sympathetic whites and 300 black Africans for the purpose of giving blacks the economic power to withstand the land-grabbing movement of the white colonists and the administration of what was then Natal. The unprecedented success in providing land to many black people in different parts of Natal raised serious alarm among white colonists who colluded with the national colonial administration to bankrupt William and Ida and drive them out of South Africa in 1918, ending their 38-year fight for the rights of black people in South Africa.
William Wilcox died in California in 1928, followed by his wife in 1940. They were financially poor, but rich in the gratitude of the black people of South Africa who had the courage to fight for their rights to keep their land and to demand representation in the government of South Africa.
It’s for these reasons that the premier of the province of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Zweli Mkhize, led a delegation to Los Angeles, California in the United States, to their resting place at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale to acknowledge their contribution and the role they played, especially in supporting Reverend Dube.