“As we continued with our studies in our meagre, ill-equipped classrooms, we watched [Stewart Hall] go up…” recalled Prof ZK Matthews. Stewart Hall opened in 1919 and was named after Scottish missionary and physician Rev Dr James Stewart, Lovedale’s second principal. It would house Fort Hare’s library and central lecture rooms for decades. Here, Prof Matthews studied to become the University’s first graduate, and later served as its most senior academic. It was – and still is – home to the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities.
Students leave an unequivocal message for Fort Hare’s incoming government-appointed administrators on Stewart Hall’s roof: “LEAVE FORT HARE ALONE. AWAY WITH INDOCTRINATION.” This photo was taken in 1959, the year the apartheid state determined that it would take control of the institution. “There was not a single student around who knew how that happened,” recalled then-student Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri of the Stewart Hall message and the other signs of protest. “There had been those who had… organised to do this, did it well, and nobody talked.” The Fort Harian, the University’s student publication, marked the occasion with an epitaph to Fort Hare: “RIP. Born: 1916. End of chapter: 1959. Here lies a growing nation’s pride/ Principles, ideals, traditions die–/ Icy injustice in full stride–/ A memory now doth Fort Hare lie…” © Terence Beard