Born May 2, 1937 in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape, he moved to Johannesburg to work as a journalist for Drum magazine. He was the first black journalist to work at the Rand Daily Mail where he provided a black perspective for the newspaper’s predominantly white readership.
He soon realized that black writers had very few creative outlets and so founded a literary journal “The Classic.” Can Themba, a fellow Drum journalist, was a contributor to this. During this time he also worked closely with Nadine Gordimer.
Nakasa received a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism at Harvard University. The apartheid government denied his application for a passport so he knew that his decision to leave meant that he would not be able to return to his home country. He left South Africa on an exit visa in 1964.
Effectively exiled, Nakasa described himself as a “citizen of nowhere”. But he grew increasingly depressed and isolated, and committed suicide by jumping out of the seventh-floor window of a building in New York in July 1965.
He was 28.
“Nat Nakasa comes from an historic generation of black journalists in South Africa,” said Siphiwo Mahala, spokesman for the department of arts and culture. “He was the glue that brought black and white readers together. His articles had a crossover appeal.”
An American law firm has reportedly taken the repatriation request to the US Supreme Court, which could rule on it before the end of next month.
Nakasa‘s grave is within sight of that of civil rights activist Malcolm X but it was unmarked until a few years ago.
If the repatriation appeal is successful, Nakasa’s remains will be reburied in Heroes’ Acre, in Chesterville, Durban.
“This is not just about the reburial of remains,” said Mahala. “It is about reclaiming our history and the vision of Nat Nakasa.”