Bantu Social Centre (Beatrice Street YMCA)

The Durban Bantu Social Centre was originally opened in Victoria Street on 21 October 1933, and later moved to this site in Beatrice Street (renamed Charlotte Maxeke Street) near the popular American Board Congregational Church. The centre opened after a period of massive black urbanisation. The Durban Municipality established a structure to control African people in the city, built on revenue generated from the municipal beer monopoly. Profits from beerhalls funded the Municipal Native Affairs Department, which was founded in 1916. Before 1933 the only places for African people to socialise were in hostels, beerhalls, the Industrial Commercial Workers’ Union Club and in a handful of churches. In order to keep African men occupied and under “suitable control” when not at work, city officials decided to establish the Durban Bantu Social Centre. It was meant to be a social, educational, recreational and entertainment venue for Africans – a place where according to its founding aims “… worthy character may be encouraged and developed. Bantu men may spend leisure time instead of roaming the streets”. Contrary to the hopes of its white founders, the centre was used by an educated black African elite to interact with working-class people and it became a platform for political meetings, giving impetus to the political objectives of the educated black political elite. In this way the Durban Bantu Social Centre played a vital role in political developments that occurred in Durban and KwaZulu-Natal for several decades. The YMCA later took over the Centre.


Address: 29 Charlotte Maxeke St
GPS Points: -29.85286, 31.02419
Site Contact Details: Steven Kotze
Durban Local History Museums
031 311 2239

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