Ruth First Collection
The Ruth First collection archive collection at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library relates predominantly to the years 1946-1982, and includes personal material, papers relating to her work as a journalist in South Africa, as university lecturer, anti-apartheid activist, and author and editor of books and articles on African and other political topics.
Ruth First (1925-1982) was a key figure in the South African struggle against apartheid, as both activist and journalist. In 1950, First was named under the Suppression of Communism Act and her movements restricted. In 1953 she was banned from membership of all political organisations, although in 1955 she helped draw up the Freedom Charter, a fundamental document of the African National Congress, and was later a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the ANC’s military wing. In December 1956, she and her husband Joe Slovo were among the 156 people charged in the so-called Treason Trial, although her indictment was dismissed in April 1959. In August 1963 she was arrested and detained under the 90-Day Law for a total period of 117 days. Effectively forced into exile, in March 1964 she left South Africa for the United Kingdom, accompanied by her three daughters. From this date she worked as both a freelance writer and academic and in 1978 she took up a post as Director of the research training programme at the University Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo. Ruth First was killed on 17 August 1982, when she opened a parcel bomb addressed to her at the above university.