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“Maybe Freedom Will Come from You”: Christian Prophecies and Rumors in the Development of Rural Resistance in South Africa, 1948-1961

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In South Africa Christian teachings and texts informed African political activity in the 1950s and 1960s particularly in the rural areas, and rumors predicting both real revolts and fantastic interventions were common. While recent scholarship concerning supernatural beliefs in African political life often analyzes the impact of fears about witchcraft or faith in the ancestors, Christianity of various types was also a significant influence on people’s actions. This paper analyzes the historical background to the revolt against apartheid policies that developed in the Transkeian region of the eastern Cape of South Africa in the mid-twentieth century and pays special attention to the role of Christian influences. Christianity was consequential both in terms of how people understood their grievances and also in the kinds of predictions they made about their political future. Rumors and religion combined with material grievances to create a prophetic moment in which rebellion became a moral choice.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, Amherst College Amherst, MA 01002 USA, Email:


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