Sophiatown in Johannesburg was at some stages in history referred to as the equivalent of Harlem, New York.

The town and neighbouring suburbs were first part of a farm which a speculator named Herman Tobiansky purchased in 1897. He decided to name the town after his wife. The 237 acres of land was divided into smaller stand in 1903 with a total of 1700 stands being made available.

Before the advent of recognised apartheid and the Native Land Act, 1913, Sophiatown was a strange hub in that this was the one place where African South Africans had a title to some land in the form of free hold rights.

In 1920 the Johannesburg town council, who did not own the land, decided to erect a sewerage plant close to the town and it lost favour with the white residents and the removed distance from the Johannesburg CBD.

By the 1940’S Sophiatown had an African population numbering 54 000 with a mixture of other cultures choosing to take up residency in the town.

In 1944 it was perceived that the proximity of African neighbours was a problem and forced removal of the residents was employed.

The town became a hub of anti-apartheid activists and objectors with people like Trevor Huddleston, Helen Joseph and Desmond Tutu playing huge roles in cementing the refusal of resident not to be removed.

After the residents were removed to places like Meadowlands, the town was renamed Triomf (Triumph) by the apartheid government. It was now safe for Caucasian South Africans to occupy the town.

The African residents that stayed in the face of adversity erected schools and churches and what stood out were the “build what you can afford” homes in the town.

The town is also home to a “shebeen culture” and a music style which is totally South African with artists like Hugh Masekela hailing from here. Together with Father Huddleston they formed a band, The Huddleston Jazz Band which was the start of Hugh Masekela’s career as an acclaimed international artist.

There are some noteworthy landmarks which stand in tribute to the residents like the Church of Christ The King on Ray Street, Dr A B Xuma’s House on Toby Street and Freedom Square on the corners of Victoria and Morris Streets.

With the large scale inner-city revival and re-development programs currently under-way in the Johannesburg CBD and cities affected neglect towns like Sophiatown will once again be in demand.

Take a tour of the MyRoof website; there are properties listed across South Africa for every income group.

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