Writer, teacher and politician Alan Paton was born in Pietermaritzburg in 1903. His visionary first novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, focused international attention on the plight of black South Africans and sold millions of copies worldwide. The book was published in 1948 – the same year the National Party assumed power and began to establish apartheid – and Paton subsequently entered politics to become a founder-member of the non-racial and fiercely anti-apartheid Liberal Party. He was president of the party from 1960 until 1968, when it was forced to disband by repressive legislation forbidding multiracial political organizations.

Paton died in Durban in 1988, having published a number of works, including two biographies and his own autobiography. The following year, the Alan Paton Centre was established at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s archives building on Milner Rd, Scottsville (visits by appointment;033 260 5926). The Centre includes a re-creation of Paton’s study, as well as personal memorabilia and documents.

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