Dennis Brutus

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(1924 – 2009) South African activist, educator, journalist, actor and poet. Well known for his campaign to have apartheid South Africa banned from the Olympic Games.

Born Dennis Vincent Brutus in Harare, Zimbabwe (then Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia), to South African parents, Brutus was of African, French and Italian ancestry. His parents moved back home to Port Elizabeth when he was aged four, and young Brutus was classified under South Africa’s apartheid racial code as "coloured". Brutus was a graduate of the University of Fort Hare (BA, 1946) and of the University of the Witwatersrand, where he studied law. He taught English and Afrikaans at several high schools in South Africa after 1948, but was eventually dismissed for his vocal criticism of apartheid and incarcerated and banned. After he was released, Brutus fled South Africa. He spent time in Britain, and in 1983, he won the right to stay in the United States as a political refugee, after a protracted legal struggle. He served on the faculty of the University of Denver, Northwestern University and University of Pittsburgh, an was a Professor Emeritus from the last institution. He was "unbanned" by the South African government in 1990 and later returned to South Africa and was based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where he often contributed to the annual Poetry Africa Festival hosted by the University and supported activism against neo-liberal policies in contemporary South Africa through working with NGOs. In 2007 he played Karl Marx in a production of Marx@KwaSuka, a play by Howard Zinn, done at the KwaSuka Theatre in Durban. He was the author of 14 books and in 2008, was awarded the Lifetime Honourary Award by the South African Department of Arts and Culture for his lifelong dedication to African and world poetry and literary arts, He died of prostate cancer on 26 December 2009, at his home in Cape Town, South Africa.


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