Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje

Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje was born on 9 October 1876 on a farm called Doornfontein in the north-western part of the Orange Free State, some thirty miles north east of Kimberley.

He attended school at Pniel near Barkly West in the Cape and a Church of England Mission School in Beaconsfield. At Pniel he received additional private instruction from the missionary, Ernest Westphal and his wife.

At 13 he passed the Cape Education Department's standard four examinations. In February 1892 he was appointed as a pupil/teacher, a post he held for two years. In March 1894 Plaatje left the mission station to work in the Post Office in Kimberley as a letter carrier. He remained in this job for four and a half years. This afforded him the opportunity to improve his command of the English language.

In June 1895 Kimberley's articulate and educated Africans such as the Rev. Jonathan Jabavu (brother of Tengo Jabavu, the editor of Imvo Zabantsundu) Gwayi Tyamzashe and David Msikinya and Isaiah Bud M'belle formed the South Africans' Improvement Society. This was Plaatje's ideological, social and literary training ground. The aims of this society were:

"Firstly, to cultivate the use of the English language, which is foreign to Africans; Secondly, to help each other by fair and reasonable criticism in readings, English composition etc. etc."