Max Yergan in South Africa: From Evangelical Pan-Africanist to Revolutionary Socialist

Max Yergan, born in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1892, was one of the most controversial foreign-born leaders ever associated with modern South Africa. From 1921 to 1936 he was the only black representative of the North Americam branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) permitted to work in the South African field. Yergan’s South African service radicalized the young missionary, culminating in his resignation from the YMCA in 1936. The next decade of Yergan’s life was devoted to left-wing activism. In 1948 however, ostensibly disillusioned by the onset of the Cold War, Yergan abandoned leftist activism in favour of ultraconservatism. South Africa loomed large in each of these transformations. This article is concerned with Yergan’s shift from evangelical Protestantism to revolutionary socialism, highlighting the critical role that residence in South Africa played in his early political evolution. It also brings into focus the broader subject of Afro-American linkages with Black South Africans, making special reference to the advent and larger significance of Black American YMCA work among Africans. Bibliogr., notes, ref.

Title: Max Yergan in South Africa: From Evangelical Pan-Africanist to Revolutionary Socialist
Author: Anthony, David H.
Year: 1991
Periodical: African Studies Review
Volume: 34
Issue: 2
Period: September
Pages: 27-55
Language: English
Geographic term: South Africa
About person: Max Yergan
External link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/524227
Abstract: Max Yergan, born in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1892, was one of the most controversial foreign-born leaders ever associated with modern South Africa. From 1921 to 1936 he was the only black representative of the North Americam branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) permitted to work in the South African field. Yergan’s South African service radicalized the young missionary, culminating in his resignation from the YMCA in 1936. The next decade of Yergan’s life was devoted to left-wing activism. In 1948 however, ostensibly disillusioned by the onset of the Cold War, Yergan abandoned leftist activism in favour of ultraconservatism. South Africa loomed large in each of these transformations. This article is concerned with Yergan’s shift from evangelical Protestantism to revolutionary socialism, highlighting the critical role that residence in South Africa played in his early political evolution. It also brings into focus the broader subject of Afro-American linkages with Black South Africans, making special reference to the advent and larger significance of Black American YMCA work among Africans. Bibliogr., notes, ref.