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Abdullah Abdurahman (1872-1940) Family Papers

Identifier: 001

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Scope and Contents

The Abdullah Abdurahman Family Papers contain materials from three members of the family; those of Abdullah Abdurahman (1872-1940), physician and political leader, and his wife, Mrs. Helen Abdurahman (1877?-1953), comprise half of the material and Dr. and Mrs. Abdurahman's daughter, Mrs. Zainunnissa Gool (1897-1963), political leader, the other half. Despite gaps, the Abdullah Abdurahman Family Papers provide an historical view of the Coloured population's struggle for political and economic equality in South Africa.

Of special importance are the records reflecting Dr. Abdurahman's involvement in the African People's Organization, the Cape Town City Council, and the Cape Provincial Council, and Mrs. Gool's involvement in the National Liberation League, the Non-European United Front, the Passive Resistance Movement and the Cape Town City Council. A few items relating to Mrs. Helen Abdurahman's civic and political activities are in the collection.

The papers of Dr. A. Abdurahman and Mrs. Abdurahman occupy boxes 1-3 and are divided into the following categories: Biographical, Correspondence, Speeches, Conferences and Conventions, and Political and Governmental.

Biographical, 3 folders, box 1. A London Parliamentary Debate record mentioning Dr. Abdurahman, clippings, programs and handbills on both Dr. and Mrs. Abdurahman provide information on their civic and political activities. Also found here are Abdullah Abdurahman's (Dr. & Mrs. Abdurahman's son) teachers reports.

Correspondence (1912-1938), 2 folders, box 1. Letters written to Mrs. Abdurahman include one from her daughter, Mrs. Gool, and several from local organizations, along with letters of appreciation. Dr. Abdurahman's correspondence contains a printed A.P.O. statement to the 1919 Peace Conference concerning newly conquered German territories; correspondence relating to City Council business, such as higher wages for postal and railway workers, the Asiatic Land Tenure Bill, and the Cape Coloured Commission report; letters of thanks and asking for assistance, and finally, correspondence concerning the withdrawal of Dr. Abdurahman's name for the King's Silver Jubilee Medal.

Speeches, 3 folders, box 1. Covers such topics as equal rights, education, franchise for Non-Europeans, elections, including a folder of speeches written for Mr. Foster.

Conferences and Conventions. 2 folders, box 1. Includes reports (bound and mimeographed) from the South Africa Indian Congress Conferences, and handwritten minutes for the fourth Non-European Conference.

Political and Governmental, 18 folders, 1 record book, boxes 1-3. Consists of African People's Organization materials, including the Women's Guild constitution, minutes, record book and newspapers; city council materials, including a memorandum by Dr. Abdurahman, handwritten notes, committees he served on; Provincial Council draft ordinances on residential segregation, among other topics; South African documents, such as the Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure Bill (1932), the Indian Inquiry Committee Report (1914) and the Cape Coloured Commission report (incomplete) which includes handwritten drafts and typewritten drafts for the political section of the report, recommendations, portions of the report and appendices. The Commission was established to study data on the Cape Coloured population, and although some of the testimonials are in Afrikaans, most of this material is in English.

The papers of Mrs. Zainunnissa Gool occupy boxes 3-5 and consist of the following: Biographical, Conferences and Conventions, Correspondence, and Political and Governmental.

Biographical, 3 folders, box 3. Consists of clippings (1935-1961) on Mrs. Gool; handbills announcing Gool speeches, sponsored by such political organizations as Friends of the Soviet Union, the Anti-Fascist League, and the Local Co-ordinating Unity Committee; programs, bills and miscellany.

Conferences and Conventions, 1 folder, box 3. This category includes agendas and minutes for national conferences and conventions sponsored by the South African Institute of Race Relations, the Africa National Congress, among others. Also found here are meeting agendas and minutes, statements, resolutions and reports of various commissions, committees and associations.

General Correspondence (1936-1961), 4 folders, box 3. In addition to invitations and meeting notices there are several congratulatory letters to Mrs. Gool on election victories, from acquaintances, and organizations such as the Communist Party of South Africa, the National Council of Women of South Africa and the Vigilance Association of Langa. There is considerable National Liberation League (N.L.L.) correspondence on topics such as bathing beaches for Non-Europeans, inadequate health facilities and correspondence regarding litigation against the N.L.L.; also Non-European United Front (N.E.U.F.) correspondence from unions and other sources; correspondence dealing with housing segregation; and the remainder is from such organizations as the Passive Resistance Council, Natal Indian Congress, Non-European Unity Movement, India League and the Anti-C.A.D. Organization.

Political and Governmental, boxes 4-5. Included in materials from the N.L.L., N.E.U.F., Passive Resistance Movement (P.R.M.) and Anti-C.A.D. organizations are: publications, handbills announcing Gool speeches, agendas, minutes, constitutions, programs, and membership lists. In addition there are clippings on Mrs. Gool and the P.R.M., and N.L.L. and P.R.M. photographs of Mrs. Gool and Dr. and Mrs. Abdullah Abdurahman.

City Council materials include campaign literature for Mrs. Gool and other candidates; Mrs. Gool's correspondence (1937-1961) from constituents and the Cape Town City Council, reports, minutes, resolutions, memoranda covering such topics as increased wages and benefits for municipal laborers; employment of Non-Europeans in skilled jobs, better housing and more recreation grounds.

Included in the last category, boxes 6-7, are South African publications such as newspapers, newspaper reprints, clippings and pamphlets. There are also 2 unidentified photographs, a magazine and book excerpts.


  • 1906-1962



7.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



Papers of the Abdullah Abdurahman Family, active in the South African Coloured population's struggle for political and economic equality.

Arrangement Note

The Abdullah Abdurahman Family Papers are arranged into three major sections (the papers of Dr. and Mrs. A. Abdurahman, and Mrs. Zainunnissa Gool, and materials belonging to all three). These are divided into ten main categories and are housed in seven boxes. Because of the Abdurahman family's similar interests and activities, some materials relating to a single family member will be found in parts of the collection dealing primarily with other family members.

Other Descriptive Information

See also separation record for listing of items removed from the collection. All materials are in English unless otherwise noted.

Guide to the Abdullah Abdurahman (1872-1940) Family Papers
E. Pessek
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies Repository

Main Library, 5th Floor, East Tower
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US