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Soga, John Henderson
1860 to 1941
South Africa

Missionary and first Xhosa historian.

He was a son of Tiyo SOGA, the first ordained Bantu minister in South Africa. He studied in Glasgow (1870-7), at the University of Edinburgh (1886-90), and finally at the United Presbyterian Divinity Hall (1890-3), where he was ordained. He returned to South Africa with a Scottish wife and opened a mission station in the Mount Frere district of the present Transkei (1893-1904). Later he replaced his brother, Dr. William Anderson Soga (d. 1916) at a station in Elliottdale. In addition to his mission work he completed his father's translation of Pilgrim's Progress into Xhosa (1929) and composed numerous Xhosa hymns. His two works on Xhosa life and history, The South-East Bantu (1930) and The Ama-Xhosa (1932), remain standard authorities on Xhosa history. In 1936 he retired to England where he and his family were killed in a German air raid in 1941.

Mark R. Lipschutz and R. Kent Rasmussen


Dictionary of South African Biography, 4 vols. Cape Town, Durban: Human Sciences Research Council, 1968-81.
Wilson, M. & L. M. Thompson (eds.). The Oxford History of South Africa. Vol. 1. Westminster: A. Constable, 1969, 1971.

This article is reproduced, with permission, from Dictionary of African Historical Biography, 2nd edition, copyright © 1986, by Mark R. Lipschutz and R. Kent Rasmussen, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California. All rights reserved.