Few South Africans will have taken much notice of President Cyril Ramaphosa posthumously conferring the Order of the Baobab (silver) late in April on Ray and Dora Phillips, two individuals who could not, after all, be described as being anything like household names. They were, in fact, Americans. In most news reports on the bestowal of national honours on the great and the good in the last week of April just one line was devoted to them: “Ray and Dora Phillips, who were founders of the SA Institute of Race Relations (IRR), posthumously received a silver Baobab”. One report acknowledged another element of the citation — their “excellent contribution to the creation of the first social work network designed to improve the terrible living conditions of the growing population of the oppressed that were being brought to the Rand to work in the mines in the early 20th century”. Born in 1889, Ray Phillips’s fascinating life journey as a missionary and visionary of SA civic activism began ...

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