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"Alexandra - A History" is a social history of one of South Africa's oldest townships. It covers the period from the township's founding in 1912, when it was perceived as a peri-urban out-post, through to its growth as a centre of black working class life in the heart of Johannesburg, to the post-apartheid era. Declared as a location for 'natives and coloureds', Alexandra became home to a diverse population where home-owners, tenants, squatters, hostel-dwellers, workers and migrants drawn from every corner of the country converged to make a life in the city. The stories of ordinary people are at the core of the township's history. Based on scores of life history interviews, the book portrays in vivid detail the daily struggles and tribulation of Alexandrans. A focus point is the rich history of political resistance, in which civic movements and political organisations - such as the ANC, Communist Party and socialist organisations like the Movement for Democracy of Content - organised bus boycotts, anti-removal and anti-pass campaigns, and mobilised for housing and a better life for residents. But the book is not only about politics.
It tells the stories of daily life, of the making of urban cultures and of the infamous Spoilers and Msomi gangs. Over weekends Alexandra came alive as soccer matches, church services and shebeens vied for the attention of residents. "Alexandra - A History" highlights the social complexities of the township, which at times caused tension between different segments of the population, such as between the 'bona fides' and amagoduka, stand-owners and tenants, or hostel-dwellers and township residents. Above all else the community spirit of Alexandrans, expressed in an enduring love for the place, has repeatedly triumphed in the face of untold misery and adversity.
Philip Bonner is Head of Department of History and the Chairperson of the History Workshop, and Noor Nieftagodien is a Lecturer in Development Studies and a Researcher for the History Workshop, both at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
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- ID: 9781868144808
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