In the 1950s, the South African journal, Drum, made a name for itself as the first magazine specifically for black people. Staffed almost entirely by black Africans, it set out to encourage its readers to hold their heads high, be filled with pride, and no longer think of themselves as doomed forever to be a servant class. New African's Stephen Williams went to meet the former Drum editor, Sylvester Stein, to talk about those days. Here are extracts.
Williams: About 50 years ago you left your job as a political editor and leader writer at the Rand Daily Mail to take over editing Drum magazine. Some people thought you were crazy. How did you come to make this decision?
Stein: I had always been very anti-apartheid and always had, unusually for a white man at that time, black friends and black political contacts--such as Nelson Mandela ... you may have heard of him! And my former wife, Jenny Hutt, was from a liberal background--she might have been the one to have stopped me but she egged me on. I also thought the job would be very interesting, so I thought "what the hell!".
Williams: During the years that you were editor, there were two major features in Drum. One was about the all-white racial make-up of the South African Olympic team. Can you tell us about this story?
Stein: We always looked for a big story that we could perhaps run over two issues. At that time in South Africa, and for many years afterwards, black people were not even considered for the Olympic team. There were the Olympics coming up--in Tokyo, I think it was--and although a number of black athletes were better than the whites, they were not being chosen for the national team. So we thought, "this is not good, this cannot be right", and we brought out these stories showing that not only could black South Africans do well, they were actually proving they were world class! There was one black athlete who had left South Africa, I can't remember if he was a runner or a weightlifter, but anyway he settled in New Zealand and had represented that country. And there was another black ex-South African who was competing for Great Britain. We did the story in our house style with plenty of photos proving the point. Of course, it made no difference at all with the authorities. But it did arouse protests and arguments and it stimulated the eventual sport boycott movement. A committee was formed to counter apartheid in sport and that blossomed over the years eventually into one of the forces that killed apartheid.
Sam Ramsamy--who I saw on TV at the Athens 2004 Olympics as a member of the International Olympics Committee, putting medals around winners'...