Mine Boy (by Peter Abrahams)

Mine Boy by Peter Abrahams

Mine Boy by Peter Abrahams

Published in 1946, Peter Abraham’s Mine Boy was one of the first books to look at what life as a black person meant in South African society during the days of Apartheid.

The book’s main character, Xuma, is a man in transition. He leaves his home in the north to go find work in the big city of Johannesburg at the gold mines. He ends up in Malay camp; a suburb for blacks. There, he meets Leah, a tough but kind woman, who gives him a place to stay. Though everyone in Leah’s house does not like the idea of Xuma working in the mines, he is determined to work there, despite the harsh conditions that blacks are forced to work under.

Xuma is naïve about the city and its ways. On his first walk around the city, he is shocked to see his fellow blacks take off from whites when they have not done any harm. Rather than run, he stands his ground. When a policeman attacks him, he strikers back. This gives him reason enough to flee. His friends call him a fool because of his naivety.

Leah is a tough and strong willed woman, unapologetic about her way of life. She brews alcohol, something illegal for blacks but not for whites. When other women bootleggers in her camp are arrested, Xuma feels bad because Leah did not warn them. To which Leah says, “Life is so in the city.”

Among the other people that live in Leah’s household are Johannes and Daddy, both of whom find their solace in taking liquor.

Xuma falls in love with Leah’s niece, Eliza,, who is a teacher and dresses like the white folks. She loves Xuma but because she has passion for the white man’s things, wants someone who speaks like them she runs away, leaving him bitter. Abandoned, Xuma turns to Maisy whose love he had earlier turned down.

At the mines, Xuma’s strength makes him a successful mine boy – a boss boy for one of the mine supervisors – Paddy Oshea, or the red one, as Xuma calls him. Paddy is considerate and understanding, and despite his not being black, he becomes friends with Xuma. To Paddy, a man is a man first and then color comes second. But as Xuma soon realizes, as a black man, he remains a second-class citizen under the apartheid regime.

After an accident in the mines that takes the lives of Johannes and other miners, Paddy and Xuma lead the strike together with the mine boys when they are forced to back to work before the place is repaired. It is this incident that makes Xuma understand the real meaning of being a man first and color next, as all the workers join hands and put their differences aside.

This is a melancholic story that paints a picture of resilience in the face of numerous setbacks and unfair laws. As the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) put it, man is born free but every where in chains. After all, what has colour go to do with personality?


  1. says

    Mine boy is the best book i have ever read in my past life. It tells how Africans struggle for their difficulty life and the Africans never give up it. Mine boy also tells who Africans were and how they successfully passed the difficulty path, the path of bloody, the path of torture, the path of slavery, ,,,,,,,

    • laurel says

      Workuteklu, I am Laurel from Nigeria. I am doing my M. A. thesis with this novel Mine Boy by Peter Abrahams, and I am finding it difficult getting journals, essays, articles or scholarly papers written about the Novel. Since you used it for your B A, could you please send me some of the articles that will be relevant to the study.

  2. Michael Tsigbey says

    Mine boy is the best novel I’ve ever study whiles growing up. It’s been 17 years now since I read it and I can still remember how I imagined all the characters. Very good piece of work from Peter Abraham

  3. akpenka joshua says

    mine teaches us as african to still remain united no matter your country of origin,creed, culture, religion or ethnic background

  4. Lusinetta Kormon says

    Everythime I imagine the strike in the mine and Leah being arrested I just fell it is so unfair. Why did blacks have to suffer that much? If anything is special it’s the black skin, it cannot be bought!!!!!!!!

  5. Slimzy says

    Mine Boy has been my very best Novel ever, but sadly, I didn’t get to finish reding it; Oh, how I love this book and I can’t get in any bookshops around me. If anyone happen to come by it, pls I won’t mind. My address is: 6 Oluwatosin Street, Ayetobi Aminkanle, Alagbado Lagos, Nigeria. +2348028776643.
    Peter Abrahams is the Masterpiece himself.

    • AFFETO Sourou Joseph says

      Hello my dear, how are you? It’s just to inform that I have your prefered book, I mean ” Mine Boy” by PETER ABRAHAMS. If you want, I can send it for you soon!!! From Benin ( University of Parakou- Englih Department-2nd year)


    I thank so much this writer for such contribution especially We Africans.Man first color after.We are the One. Even We Africans We can!!!

  7. Leslie Chemwolo says

    You read it and you become assimilated into the community of Malay camp. Amazing book. I visited Johannesburg from Kenya two weeks ago and I went on the Mine Tour just because of my love for the book. As I walked about underground in the tunnels I imagined could relate with Xuma. Amazing book.

  8. says

    The novel Mine Boy was my subject of study when i was completing my undergraduate level at Bunia teachers training college in east of D.R.Congo. Till today i still have that passion of reading it.May live the novelists of South Africa

  9. Kwanya says

    Great novel. Perhaps you could do more to try and analyse the themes and styles in the novel. That could help those studying it a lot.

  10. wyckliffe Ayoki says

    I did Mine Boy as a set book in Litrature when i was a student at Busia Forward Snr Sec School in Uganda and i cant forget it some1 give it to me pliz…….i gave mine to a friend who fallen in love with English litrature because of it soo i want to read it again but i cant find one….

  11. John says

    It’s written before apartheid begins… highly unlikely to be a rendering of the African experience under apartheid then…

  12. Piet lebogang rabalao says

    Shout out to my bestEnglish teacher Mrs N.V letsoalo.mine boy reminds me my class mates lol Maria fisha,Thebola,Patricia n belinda Gal(Eliza)

  13. kim says

    this is the best book i hav eva read in my life. l love this book so much that i read it more than five times

  14. BEMBA KAYE says

    This is a great book. We loved back in 1977 and i still care about rereading this book. Peter Abrahams is a great writer. I am going to read this book again and if u have it please send it to me. U can e-mail me for my address @ bembakaye@aol.com or call/text @ 704-600-7239. Thanks.

  15. Jared Nasio says

    Good is understating the truth about this book, ‘Mine Boy’ is simply amazing. I read the book and could not hold back tears as I imagined how my fellow Africans suffered during colonial era. The aspect of social life was also very thrilling. I loved the book so much! b

  16. Jeanette Bosman says

    I genuinely love Mine Boy,just inpires me in such a way it was written and its motives,its truly a work of masterpiece…i totally love it n it helps me to stratergise the book m busy writting now

  17. Mike Onyango says

    Great book. We did it in high school and I too fell in love with Eliza, who I picture to look like Nhlanhla Nciza of Mafikizolo. Back then, there was this South African soap called Generations, and there was this girl who was a friend to Karabo, who ended up marrying her father. I pictured Eliza to look like her too. I was very disappointed when Eliza disappeared and left Xuma all alone. But rereading the book many years later, I now understand why Maisy was better for Xuma. Especially touching is her promise at the end of the story that she will wait for Xuma until he is free again, then they will ‘make a home where there will be much laughter and happiness’.

    Ultimately, even under oppression, human beings just desire love and happiness.

  18. wenceslaus says

    I read this book when at the high level in early 1990s but am still reading it whenever i have time,like other commenters i was real sorry when Eliza left Zuma,then when Francis Ndabula(Daddy)passed away and when Johannes died.When you go through the book you get all the life in south Africa during the apartheid regime.

  19. Samwel obera says

    After reading the book, i have learned by extension that ,be a man first before you become a boss, a C E O.or any other master, be humane in every thing that’s what it means be man, color , race, position, becomes secondary and you will live well thanks to Abraham.

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