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Benjamin Pogrund papers

Call Number: MS 1261

Scope and Contents

The papers document the career of Benjamin Pogrund, best known for his work as African affairs reporter, night editor, and deputy editor of the Rand Daily Mail. The collection includes Pogrund's correspondence, most notably with the activist Robert Sobukwe while Sobukwe was a political prisoner. Pogrund's writings also comprise a significant portion of the papers, particularly his extensive notes for an unfinished book on the Communist Party in South Africa from 1945 to 1960. Files documenting the Rand Daily Mail "Prisons Case," as well as prison conditions in South Africa under apartheid, comprise another important series in the collection. Finally, the papers include a large amount of collected materials regarding various groups and individuals who organized resistance to the South African government while under the apartheid system.


  • 1925-1996


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the African Collection Curator, 1997.


Arranged in five series: I. Correspondence, 1961-1996. II. Prisons Files, 1925-1984. III. Subject files, 1939-1995. IV. Writings, 1957-1994. V. Photographs, 1961-1994.


14.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers include correspondence, writings, subject files, scrapbooks, clippings, legal documents, photographs, and other materials created and compiled by Benjamin Pogrund, the South African journalist. The collection extensively documents prison conditions in South Africa, the South African Communist Party, the Rand Daily Mail, the South African Coloured National Convention, the South African press, and many other organizations and individuals who worked to subvert apartheid. Featured individuals include Robert Sobukwe, Laurence Gandar, Raymond Louw, John Rees, and Norma Kitson; featured organizations include South African Coloured People's Congress, Pan Africanist Congress, South African Institute of Race Relations, Congress Alliance, and Search for Alternatives.

Biographical / Historical

Benjamin Pogrund was born in Cape Town, South Africa on May 5, 1933. He obtained degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and Bachelor of Social Science at the University of Cape Town between 1950 and 1956 and of Bachelor of Arts in African Studies at Witwatersrand University in 1971.From 1958 to 1985, Pogrund worked in a variety of capacities for theRand Daily Mail, including African affairs reporter, night editor, and deputy editor. He achieved acclaim and notoriety for his reports on prison conditions and for his coverage of black South African individuals and groups who organized resistance to apartheid. Pogrund also wrote on South African affairs for many publications abroad, including theBoston Globe,Economist,Today,New Republic, andSunday Times(London) and published several books, including a biography of Robert Sobukwe. Pogrund collected extensive materials documenting the struggle against apartheid and donated them to research libraries around the world. He moved to London in the mid-1980s, where he worked in the foreign departments of several newspapers and commented widely on South Africa. He lived for a short while in the United States during the 1990s before moving to Israel to establish the Center for Social Concern in 1997.

An author, journalist, and editor, Pogrund worked for the Rand Daily Mail in Johannesburg from 1958 to 1985, when the newspaper was shut down due to financial trouble and government pressure. Under the leadership of Laurence Gandar, Raymond Louw, and Pogrund, the Rand Daily Mail became internationally renowned for its coverage of the unjust system of apartheid. Pogrund served in a variety of capacities including African affairs reporter, night editor and deputy editor. While a beat writer on African affairs, Pogrund wrote groundbreaking articles investigating the conditions in which black South Africans lived under apartheid, reporting on the unjust imprisonment of black activists, and giving attention to black politics. He covered the activities of black groups such as the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist Congress and activists such as Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe.

Pogrund was imprisoned and prosecuted twice for his reporting. He was arrested in 1961 and spent eight days in jail for refusing to divulge a source that had given him inside information on government protests conducted on Republic Day of that year. In 1965, Pogrund wrote a series of articles exposing the miserable conditions in South African prisons. The government responded by prosecuting Pogrund, his informants, Laurence Gandar, and the newspaper. The trial became known as the "Prisons Case" and became a showcase for censorship of the press by the South African government. Initially found guilty, the verdict against Pogrund was overturned on appeal in 1972.

Pogrund also wrote on South African affairs for a number of sources outside of South Africa, including the Boston Globe, Economist, Today, New Republic, and Sunday Times (London). Pogrund published several books, including How Can Man Die Better: The Life of Robert Sobukwe.

Through contacts made while investigating and writing about black affairs, Pogrund also acquired a large amount of historical materials documenting the struggle by Africans to end apartheid. Funded first by the Hoover Institution and then the Center for Research Libraries, Pogrund collected and contributed greatly to the microfilm and archival holdings on South African affairs in many U.S. libraries.

After the Rand Daily Mail ceased publication, Pogrund moved to England where he worked in the foreign departments of several newspapers, including the Independent. He spent some time living in the United States in the 1990s before moving to Israel in 1997 to start up the Center for Social Concern, an organization established to facilitate the peace process in the Middle East.

Guide to the Benjamin Pogrund Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Tom Hyry
June 1999
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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