Political opposition in patriarchal East London, 1950-1960: dilemmas of paternalism

06 August 2010

This paper describes the growing level of politicization in East London in the 1950s, and the way this affected the patriarchal normative system, which prevailed in urban administration. Patriarchalism, as a system, was susceptible of different interpretations by white municipal officials, and their response to black political opposition ranged from liberal forbearance to rigid and uncompromising intolerance. Black leaders’ attitudes to the patriarchal order were similarly nuanced. The Location Native Advisory Boards vacillated between opposition to the white patriarchal order and compliance with it. Towards the late 1950s, the political climate became ever more polarized. The paper draws on archival sources from East London to show that patriarchalism, as a moral system, was sufficiently robust to accommodate a variety of viewpoints, within the white and black communities. But as violent resistance took its toll during the 1950s, more coercive forms of paternalism came increasingly to the fore.