Charlotte Maxeke, Wilberforce University, class of 1903
President Pinkard is the featured (virtual) speaker at events that honor the life and legacy of WU alum, Charlotte Mannya Maxeke. One of the programs at which he will speak celebrating her 150th birthday will be held in her native South Africa, the other in Washington, D. C.
Maxeke entered Wilberforce on a Daniel Payne scholarship and graduated in 1903, becoming South Africa’s first Black woman to receive a college degree. Her life of exemplary humanitarian service began after she and her husband Marshall, whom she met at Wilberforce, returned to their homeland, first as missionaries for the AME Church.
Maxeke became active against apartheid and other anti colonial politics, more specifically pass laws. Also developing a strong interest in women’s rights in South Africa, Maxeke started other grass roots movements that demanded better working and living conditions and voting rights for all Black South Africans. The Maxekes founded an elementary school in the township of Evaton, S. Africa, naming it Wilberforce Institute. Years later, it was disbanded because of apartheid laws, but rebuilt after those laws were dismantled. It is now The Wilberforce Community College.