Dr. Mphahlele, English
Dr. Ezekiel Es’kia Mphahlele, H’82, former professor in the department of English, passed away October 27; he was 88.
Dr. Mphahlele was a renowned scholar and writer from South Africa who served on Penn’s faculty from 1974 to 1977. During this time he had been in exile from South Africa since 1957 for his opposition to unequal education under the apartheid government. Upon his return to South Africa in 1977, he later became the first black professor at the University of Witwatersrand and later founded its African literature department.
Dr. Mphahlele returned to Penn in 1982 to deliver the baccalaureate address and to accept a doctor of humane letters (Almanac April 13, 1982). In the previous year, he formed the Council of Black Education and Research in South Africa to enhance the education for blacks outside the University of Witwatersrand, which Penn encouraged support for in a note from the President’s Office published in Almanac (September 10, 1985). In addition, he spoke at the 1985 Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Program along with civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
His honors and awards included numerous honorary degrees and the 1999 National Silver Award of the Southern Cross awarded by Nelson Mandela. He was most known for his novel Down Second Avenue (1959), which portrays his early life as a black South African during Apartheid.
Dr. Mphahlele is survived by his sons, Chabi, Motswiri, Tony and Puso; and grandchildren, Es’kia, Jr., Rorisang, Justin, Shelton, Tumisho and Soycka.
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