Samuel Moroka’s correspondence

Samuel Moroka’s correspondence

Samuel Moroka's correspondence

The Aborigines’ Protection Society received six letters from Samuel Moroka between 26 December 1883 and 7 February 1884.

Samuel Moroka was born circa 1840 to Moroka II, chief of the Thaba Nchu Barolong. Samuel was the third son by Moroka II’s great wife, Moilana, and as the eldest son of the great wife he was the traditional heir to the throne.

Samuel’s father sent him to be educated in Cape Town, and in 1861-1865 Governor George Grey sponsored Samuel to study at St. Augustine’s College in Canterbury, England, where he converted to Christianity.

Samuel’s conversion was problematic for several reasons. The Barolong chief was believed to be the link between the ancestral world and the physical world, and Samuel had supposedly severed that link by converting to Christianity. Polygamy was also a customary practice, especially among chiefs as a measure to assure a continuing line of succession, yet as a Christian Samuel refused to marry more than once.

As such, Moroka II nominated his elder son, Tshipinare, as his successor, leading to the succession dispute between Samuel and Tshipinare that occasioned President Brand to support Tshipinare and exile Samuel. It was this exile that Samuel wrote about the to APS, seeking imperial support in regaining his throne.

Samuel is an intriguing liminal character. Education at an English university and conversion to Christianity undoubtedly gave him greater social capital with the Aborigines’ Protection Society. He epitomized their “civilizing” perspective on the potential of colonized people to be remade in the British image.

Samuel Moroka, image courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum's Open Content Program

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