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I hereby declare that this project entitled “The Theme of Racism in Peter Abraham’s Tell Freedom and Mine Boy” has been written by me and that it is the record of my own research work. Therefore, it has not been presented in any previous application for any academic certificate. In addition, all sources of information are specially acknowledged using references.



This research work examines the theme of Racism in Peter Abraham’s Tell Freedom and Mine Boy. From the analysis of the novels, the study shows that racism has been considered as a hindrance to the Blacks who live in South Africa. The study has also shown that the white who are even the minority oppress and discriminate against the Blacks because of racism.


The authors therefore portray these problems of the Blacks like poverty, economic problems, political and social problems of the masses, less privilege and the poor. Again, the study also shows that, the Blacks die of starvation while some contract diseases and sent away without pay. Therefore, this make their fellow Blacks fight for what is called the survival of the fittest as they protest through resistance to oppression in the novels.



Title Page






Table of Contents


1.1     Background to the Study

1.2     Statement of the Problem

1.3     Purpose of the Study

1.4     Significance of the Study

1.5     Objectives of the Study

1.6     Research Methodology

1.7     Scope and Limitation of the Study

1.8     Bio-Data of the Study








3.1.    Analysis of Abraham’s Tell Freedom

3.2     The Theme of Racial Discrimination in

Abraham’s Tell Freedom

3.3     Abraham’s Style in Tell Freedom 

3.4     Characters in Abraham’s Tell Freedom




4.1     Analysis of Abraham’s Mine Boy 

4.2     The themes in Abraham’s Mine Boy

4.3     The style in Abraham’s Mine Boy

4.4     Characters in Abraham’s Mine Boy



5.1     Summary

5.2     Conclusion

5.3     Recommendations

Works Cited




1.1     Background to the Study

Obviously, different novelists explore different themes, depending on the prevailing circumstances of their time. Indeed, these circumstances could be related to cultural oppression, socio-political disillusionment and racial segregation between the whites and the blacks. However, it is on the point that the background to the research is to examine the theme of racism in Peter Abraham’s Tell Freedom and Mine Boy.


The author portrays how the evil of racism affect the blacks South Africans. They were humiliated, oppressed, discriminated and disillusioned in the hands of the whites. Abrahams point to the welfare of the blacks as they were exploited so badly and forced to lives separately in the hot tenements, while the white. Lives in an apartment in a very conducive environment.

All these afflictions imposed on the blacks is as a result of colonialism, when the white oppressors came to some parts in African states and treated the Africans as animals because they sees Africans as nothing and that: is the main reason they did not cater for them.


The author portrays how South Africans suffered racial discrimination, frustration and poverty from the hands of the white masters.


Furthermore, over the years, research have shown that, after the second world war II ended in 1945, the evil of racism that had played black South Africans for decades became institutionalized when the national party came into power in 1948. All the white African government institutes the system of apartheid which produces laws that required racial segregation and imposed by the regime.


On the other Alex La Guma, one of the South Africans writers portrays the evil of racism in his novel, A Walk in the Night. He portrays nothing but the effect of racism between the world of the white man and the black man.


Similarly, throughout the 1960s, the blacks South Africans were forced into segregated township outside the major cities of South Africa. Such cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town and Jurtian. However, for fiction writers and authors of creative non-fictions who sought to speak out against the policies of apartheid in South Africa, this makes their publication possibilities became very limited.


In such instances, and numerous play writers saw their works handed in their home country, South Africa. According to Abrahams, these issues of racism and racial oppression in South Africa occur during colonialism. This forms the basic point of this research work that focuses on the theme of racism in Peter Abraham’s Tell Freedom and Mine Boy.


1.2     Statement of the Problem

Racism is one of the problems that affect the black natives of South Africans as portrays by Abraham’s Tell Freedom and Mine Boy. These problems are racial oppression and racial segregation that the whites impose on the blacks.


1.3     Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to examine the theme of racism in Peter Abraham’s Tell Freedom and Mine Boy. This research shall further discuss the effects of racism on Blacks and its origin in South Africa.


1.4     Significance of the Study

The significance of this research work will the on the benefits to the entire African society. It shall equally be significant to students of English and Literary studies as well as other researchers who may read the works.

1.5     Objectives of the Study

The objectives of this research work are as follows:

  • to examine the theme of racism and it’s effect on the Blacks in Abraham’s Tell Freedom and Mine Boy.
  • to investigate the causes of racism in African countries.
  • to identify and profound solutions to racism in South Africa.


1.6     Research Methodology

The research methodology is primary and secondary research methods. The primary source in the main text books for the project, while the secondary source is the use of critical worlds, library books, literary journals and internet.



1.7     Scope and Limitation of the Study

The scope of this research work will be limited to Peter Abraham’s Tell Freedom and Mine Boy. This is to provide details of the work and concentration within the time frame allotted to the project.

1.8     Bio-Data of the Study

Peter Henry Abrahams Deras was born on 3rd March, 1919 at Vrededorp, South Africa. He died on 18 January, 2017 at the age of 97 years. His father was from Ethiopia and his mother was coloured. In 1939 Abraham’s left South Africa and worked first as a sailor and then as a journalist in London. Hoping to make his writer, he faced considerable challenges as a South, carol polsgrove (2009).


Abrahams settled in Jamacia in 1956. In 1994, he was awarded the Gold medal for his writings and journalism by the institute of Jamaica. Abraham’s was one of the four most African prominent writers whose works deal with political and social issues, especially with racism and apartheid.


Abrahams was found dead at his home town in Saint Andrew Parish, Jamaica, on 18th January, 2017 aged 97 years. According to research Abrahams was a victim of fowl play. A local 61 years old man Norman Tomlinson, was later charged with murder. His works include:

Dark Testament                          (1942)

Song of the City                         (1945)

The Path of Thunder                   (1945)

Wild Conquest                            (1953)

A Wreath for Udomo                   (1954)

A Night of their Own                  (1965)

This Island Now                         (1966)

The View from Coyaba      (1985)

The Black Experience in the 2Oth: An Autobiography

And Meditation                          (2000)

Reality Check                             (2009)





Early African writers had dwelt on addressing the basic African problems like colonialism, neo-colonialism, discrimination, and cultural domination, policies of apartheid racism and propagation of African values to the outside world. African writers use literature as a tool for correcting the ills of the white’s domination. On this note, one of the central tenets of this work is racism in Abraham’s writings.


Historically, South Africa was a colony of the British and the Blacks have suffered injustices from the white race right from the time of slavery. This we get to know through history. Critics have studied Abraham’s novels and those reviewers who have done some reviews of his plays have examined the lamentation of racial segregation as well as apartheid policy.

Critics like Alan Paton criticized Abraham’s Mine Boy and the effects of racism in the life of Xuma the main character as well as others who are working in the mines. He further portrays the denial of human relationship and the unnaturalness of the values imposed by racism, Alex La Guma in his work titled A Walk in the Night, portrays nothing but hostility between the white man and the black man.


Critics like Wanja, earliest suggest that Abraham’s writing portrays the effect of racism in South between the blacks and the whites, he says, the white coloured amounts to superiority over the blacks in South Africa.

He further points to the evils of racism in Abraham’s Tell Freedom, and how his colour did not give him the freedom. Abraham’s race however does not favour his lifestyle in South Africa especially when his parents died and he suffers from the problems of colour which makes him to write on his work Tell Freedom. He says,

Tell Freedom, people moved towards one another only so far and then some kind of fear seems to descend suddenly upon them and then they hesitate, many white social work, who seemed untouched by the racial disease of the land. But there had been restrain an unspoken, unexpressed concern lest they go too far in their intimacy or lest I forget that outside these offices of the institute of peace relations, the racial laws were still in force (250).


If is an Irony though the whites also see the apartheid system as a barrier to their freedom. They don’t enjoy the privileges the system is supposed to give them as alienates them from the blacks.

Accordingly, Olney James, Abraham’s Tell Freedom has provided the finest literary vehicle for South African’s racial segregation; they have found it to be the form best suited to expressing and interpreting their experiences. He goes on to say that black writers have produced works that are the most vital intense and energetic than Africans. Thereafter, Olney’s remarks apply well to Abraham’s writings for Tell Freedom. Thus,  seems to be one of his most successful works that deals on racial issues and his own life style.


According to Lewis Nkosi, the denial of natural human rights in Abraham’s Mine Boy portrays a clear picture, so painted in South Africa and how the policies of racial discrimination affect the lives of South Africans. Nkosi further portrays how Xuma’s condition represents a clear example of racism in South Africa.

Peter Abrahams’ in 1945 was the first nonwhite African novelist in his novels Son of the City and Mine Boy which later appeared in the fifties. Thus, this novel began to acquire its identity and generate the present literary explosion in the fifties.


Every writer is influenced by the tradition in which he acquires his tools of writing, the language the styles and the forms which he’s familiar with before he starts writing, this can be seen in African writing which has it’s own distinctive characteristics that distinguish them from other areas of the world due to the acquisition of their tool of writing, language, the styles, the forms, from their contact with the west.

Critic such as Janheinz John in the book titled A H/story of Neo-African Literature published in 1968 defends the view that there is an essential similarity between all literatures written by people whose origin can be traced back to Africa.


At the First congress of Negro writers which was held in pairs in 1956, one of the delegates Ben Enwonwu insisted on the declaration on the need for literature to put itself at the service of nationalism; Ben declared that the present generation of African artists therefore have to face their political problem and try to look at art through polities, the kind of picture that the political aspect of African art shows is one of strife and pity.

Indeed, as African literature grew, it began to acquire different characteristics in different parts of the continent. However, South Africa deviated and started to write on their experiences and white domination. Thus, this led to protest literature in South Africa. Obviously, Ngugi in Gachukia and Akiuaga has correctly observed, literature does not grow out of vacuum if given impetus and direction by society. Also, Ngugi’s observation implies that a writer’s work is shaped by the different experience that his or her society has undergone. However, these experiences could be socio-political, economic, religious and historical among others.


Furthermore, in South Africa black writer seems to have been influenced more by the ideas of the apartheid system of colour. Indeed, the question of colour becomes a great problem in South Africa and is an excuse to exploit the blacks. In 1910, the British passed an Act of Union that denied the Africans the right to vote. If upheld colour Bar and Blacks could not struggle for economic and political emancipation.

Generally, the racial discrimination of apartheid stripped blacks of human dignity and this is the reality that Abraham’s writing is all about. There are other South Africa writers who wrote protest poetry reflecting the people’s condition like Brutus or Steve Biko’s poetry.


In South Africa, there are also white South Africa writers like Alan Paton of Cry the Beloved Country who opposed the white regime in his book. Because of the evils of racism and the brutality inflicted on the blacks, Abraham’s works are a clear picture in terms of exploring the psychological and physical effects of the apartheid system on blacks. Indeed many critics of South African literature tend to emphasize the theme of racism. This work however goes beyond theme to explore Peter Abraham’s artistic vision as presented in two selected novels in this study, Tell Freedom and Mine Boy.

Abraham’s aims of his writings are premised on the recognition of the fact that a writer does not only reflect the realities within a particular context but makes an artistic judgment of the same from an aesthetic planes presents his or her vision on the raw materials of reality presented.

On the other hand, one of the South Africa writers Fugard also laments and addresses the issue of apartheid and his vision of redemption amidst opposition. However, it is not easy for Fugard to communicate his vision as the apartheid law did not allow the races to interact. True enough Alan Paton cannot travel abroad nor can the playwright Aithol cite Ezekiel Mphalele (214).


Despite these distracters, Abraham’s continue in his task of writing his plays for opposing the issues of races and working with his Blacks characters as well as himself as stated in Tell Freedom. The study therefore is justified in examining what social vision he has that gives him the reason to write against racism and its effects in South Africa.




5.1     Summary

This research work was carried on racism in peter Abraham’s Tell Freedom   and Mine Boy. Therefore, Base on the analysis of the two novels as portrayed by the author, the black South Africa have suffered from racism.

These blacks were oppressed, discriminated and humiliated while some contracted diseases. For instance critic like Anne, Sally focuses on Abraham’s Mine Boy have the blacks contracted diseases and trauma from the colonial rule (2). On the other hand, Thompson, Leonard says “the blacks suffered indiscriminately during the apartheid regime”. He further insists that some of these blacks work in the mines for example from 1953 to 1966, most of them died in the mining accidents, why some suffered from tuberculosis, lung diseases, all caused by mining” (168).

Some reviewers have equally lamented how these blacks suffer from racial discrimination and racial prejudice in South Africa.


However, according to Jones, Megan he says, the space in the novel, Mine Boy and the movement of the characters is reveals about the organization of Urban life by racist capitalism (10).

Therefore, the novel, Mine Boy remains an important novel and even in some ways, a powerful one.


5.2     Conclusion

In brief, the blacks have suffered in South Africa. This system of racial stratification began to take form in South Africa under the ditch Empire in the late eighteenth century. Therefore, from the analysis in this two novels Tell Freedom and Mine Boy Critics like Erasmus. Msuyu write a linguistic analysis of Xuma and Leah’s speech in the novel,  Mine Boy and it reveals  about (5). Why Rodney, Nesbit wrote about the structure, style, tone and themes of the novel (10).


According to Kolawole Ogunbesan says Abraham’s Mine Boy “became the first African novel written in English to attract international attention (3). As a writer, Abraham’s have been able to portray in those two novels, Tell Freedom and Mine Boy, the consequences of racism towards the blacks South Africa.


5.3     Recommendations

From the analysis of these two novels and opinion of some critics, the researcher made the following recommendations to include;

  1. Firstly, the Government should intervene into these issues of colour and how it affects the blacks negatively. In other words, the Government should find a solution to these issues of racism.
  2. Educational planners should make the study of literature in schools compulsory in order to expose the learners to the importance of literature textbooks such as Abraham’s novel.
  3. Also, the policy of racial segregation should be aborted for the betterment of the blacks.
  4. Lastly, education planners should introduce Abraham’s novels compulsory for the students of English and literature for their better understanding of racism and how it came to existence and its effects.




Abrahams, Peter: Mine Boy: London, Heinemann Education books, 1946.


Alan Paton: The writing of Peter Abrahams South Africa Tragedy: Oxford press, 1964.


Alan, Paton: Cry My Beloved Country, New York: Series press,1948.


Alex, La Guma. A Walk in the Night. Ibadan: Mbari Press, 1962.


Althol, Fugard and Ezekiel Maphalele: voice in the Whirlwind and other essays. New York: Hill and Young, 1972.


Erasmus, Msuya. Stylistic Analysis of Xuma and Leah in Peter Abraham’s Mine Boy: A verbal transitivity process, 2017.


James, Olney The writings of peter Abrahams Tell Freedom. In An Approach to African literature. Printon: Printon University Press, 1973.


Janheinz, John: A History of Neo-African literature, A black writing. New York: grove press, 1968.


Kolawole,Ogunbesan. The writings of Peter Abrahams ,New York: African Publishing Company,1979.


Lewis, Nkosi. The writing of Apartheid in Peter Abraham’s Mine Boy. London: Heinemann Books Ltd, 1944.


Megan, Jones Ubanism and Black Mobility in Peter Abraham’s Mine Boy. In Journal of South Africa Studies, 2012.


Mphalele, Ezekiel. Down Second Avenue. London Faber, 1959


Ngugi, Wa and Gachukia. Teaching of African literature in Schools. Naiobi East Africa Educational Publishers, 1978,


Peter, Abrahams. Tell Freedom: London Faber and Faber, 1954


Rodney, Nsebitt. Note on Peter Abraham’s Mine Boy. East African Publishers, 1997.


Sally, Anne. Peter Abraham’s Mine Boy: A study of colonial disease in South Africa 2007.


Summers, Claude. Gay and lesbian literary Heritage, Routledge 2014.


Thompson, Leonard.  The Political Mythology of Apartheid, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.


Wanjala, Charles. Stand Point on African Literature. Naiobi, East African literature Bureau, 1973.


Joselyn Nya

My Name is Joselyn Nya A Publisher in Project Boss Team. I'm a Nigerian I'm a graduate/Educational Researcher. Project Boss Team. We are the best for Project materials and project writing services. Email:

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