- 1954-1972 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
0.06 cubic metres
Name of creator
Dennis Brutus was born in November 1924 in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and grew up in Doverville, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. His parents were both South Africans who took up teaching posts in Rhodesia. He graduated from the University of Fort Hare in 1947 and taught for ten years in a government high school in Port Elizabeth. Brutus was involved in the ‘coloured’ Convention Movement. In 1958 he founded the South African Sports Association (SASA) whose essential aim was the elimination of racialism in South African sport, and which worked to suspend international recognition of those associations which refused to accept non racialism. SASA’s major achievements were the imposition of suspension on the Football Association of South Africa and the international recognition of the Non Racial Table Tennis Board in place of the Table Tennis Union. In 1961 Brutus was involved as an organiser of black and mixed race South Africans in an attempt to bring about a national convention of all racial groups. He was subsequently banned from political activity for five years. In 1962 Brutus helped to establish a parallel organisation to the SASA in order to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to act against the South African Olympic Committee. The South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SAN-ROC), with Brutus as its president, had considerable success: not only with the exclusion of South Africa from the Olympic Games in 1968, but also with the withdrawal, in 1976, of many African competitors from the Montreal Olympics as a consequence of New Zealand’s refusal to stop its rugby team from playing against South Africa. Brutus was arrested for sitting down on centre court at Wimbledon to protest against racism in sport in 1971 and from 1972 was chair of the International Campaign against Racism in Sport.
Brutus was dismissed from his teaching post and banned from teaching, writing, public speaking and attending all gatherings in 1961 under the auspices of the Suppression of Communism Act. In 1963 he tried to attend an IOC meeting in Germany but was arrested by Portuguese authorities and was shot and wounded whilst trying to escape. Charged with breaking the 'banning order', Brutus was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment. The sentence cut short his law studies at the University of Witwatersrand and Brutus served his sentence at Robben Island, where he occupied a cell next to that of Nelson Mandela. Forced into exile in 1966, Brutus left South Africa for England, where he worked for the International Defence Aid Fund.
In 1971 he moved to the United States, where he was a professor of English at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and from 1974-5 was a visiting professor of English at the University of Texas. His first volume of poetry, 'Sirens, Knuckles and Boots' was published in Ibadan, Nigeria, in 1963 while Brutus was in prison. His second volume, 'Letters to Martha and other poems from a South African prison', in London in 1968. Some of his work was published under the pseudonym John Bruin.
Brutus married May Jaggers (1929-2011) in 1950 and died on 26 December 2009. He was survived by his wife and eight children.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Conditions governing reproduction
Quotation or publication from personal and unpublished papers is by permission of the estate of Professor Brutus.
A reprographics service is available to researchers. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute, University of York, terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.
Language of material