MR. LEONARD GEBLIEL
by Leonard Gebliel, American Committee on Africa
New York, New York, United States
Apparently November 1959
American Committee on Africa
Verbatim statement made at in U.S. Immigration Detention on Washington Street by Leonard Gebliel, translated from Herero to English by Mburumba Kerina. Gebliel is a 27-year-old contract laborer from South West Africa who was a stowaway in a ship to America as a fugitive from South African oppression. Gebliel went to school with Toivo at St. Mary's and came to know Sam Nujoma in Windhoek. When Gabliel reached the U.S., Toivo thought it was a good idea to have a member of the Ovamboland Peoples Organization outside the country. Gebliel worked in Ochiwarongo as a contract laborer and then returned to Ovamboland, then on to Omaruru, to Swakopmund, and from there to Walvis Bay. For six days, he hid in the cargo hold of a boat of the Lykes Brothers Steamship Company. When he emerged, the crew kept him tied to a pole in a small cabin. When the boat arrived in New Orleans, he was handed over to police (apparently the Danners Marine Guard Service), who transferred him to a boat bound for Cape Town. Before the boat left, he went on a hunger strike and tried to commit suicide, so he was taken to a hospital in Galveston, Texas. He was placed with mental patients for four days and then was transferred to the ordinary patients' ward. From there, he was taken to the Marine Hospital, where immigration men told him they were taking him to New York. They put him on a plane back to South Africa. He was assisted by the U.S. government and by Angie Brooks, Assistant Secretary of State for Liberia, so that he was not returned to South West Africa. Gebliel said he is beginning to feel like a free person, compared to how he felt in South West Africa. He said that South West Africa must be freed from the South Africans to make it a country worth living in for both white and black.
Used by permission of Africa Action (successor to the American Committee on Africa).
Collection: Winifred Courtney papers