Collection 006 - Ruth First Papers

Identity area

Reference code

GB UL MR-RT-006

Title

Ruth First Papers

Date(s)

  • 1946 - 1982 (Accumulation)

Level of description

Collection

Extent and medium

95 boxes. It is unclear how much relates to the Rivonia Trial ; Text-based documents

Context area

Name of creator

(1925–1982)

Biographical history

Academic, journalist and anti-apartheid and women’s rights activist. Married Joe Slovo, 1949. Met Mandela while attending the University of the Witwatersrand. Arrested, charged and then acquitted in the Treason Trial. Fled to Swaziland with her children during the 1960 State of Emergency. Detained in solitary confinement for ninety days in 1963 and fled to the UK on her release. Lived in exile in Mozambique from 1977 and was killed by a parcel bomb there on 17 August 1982.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The collection includes personal material of First and her immediate family such as correspondence and financial records, papers relating to First's work as a journalist in South Africa, as a university lecturer, an anti-apartheid activist, and as an author and editor of numerous books and articles on Africa and other political topics. Also included are research papers and printed material relating to First and her family, collected both during her lifetime and after her death.

Material related to the Rivonia Trial:


  • Background material, correspondence and reviews concerning "No Easy Walk to Freedom," edited by Ruth First. Includes printed copies of Nelson Mandela’s speech at the Rivonia Trial, drafts of sections of the book, and a typescript of Mary Benson’s statement before the UN Special Committee on Apartheid in 1964, with handwritten alterations. Also includes correspondence, mainly between Ruth First and Heinemann Publishers, as well as clippings of newspaper reviews (RF/1/6/2)
  • ANC publications includes introductory pamphlets on the ANC and the Rivonia trial, copies of magazines: Sechaba and Mayibuye.(RF/1/17/2/3)
  • Materials on political detentions between 1963 and 1970, including a copy of the 1963 Detention Act, a radio script by Mary Benson entitled "Nelson Mandela and the Rivonia Trial," and notes produced by First (RF/1/18/2)
  • Transcripts of interviews with Robben Island political prisoners (RF/1/18/1).
  • Newspaper cuttings from both British and South African newspapers, mainly covering issues relating to politics in South Africa including the Rivonia Trial (RF/1/19)
  • Correspondence (Feb 1964-Aug 1965) covering subjects such as the Rivonia Trial and First's exile to Britain. Correspondents include Govan Mbeki, Molly Bernstein and Julius Lewin (RF/2/1/2).

The collection is on indefinite loan to the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and remains the property of the Ruth First Memorial Trust.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Accruals

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Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Permission required from Ruth First Memorial Trust for access to some records.

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