Miriam Makeba (All Music Guide)

Even though Miriam “Mama Africa” Makeba admits, “I never saw the door of a university,” she now holds three university degrees.

Makeba received her third honorary degree, a doctorate in literature and philosophy from University of South Africa, on her 70th birthday.


The doctorate honors her achievement as a world-renowned singer and an anti-apartheid activist.

Born in Johannesburg in 1930, Makeba toured southern Africa with jazz group The Manhattan Brothers. After presenting a documentary about South Africa “Come Back Africa,” at the Venice Festival, the South African government revoked Makeba’s passport in 1960 and she was forced into exile for 30 years.

After spending time in London, Harry Belafonte helped her emigrate to the U.S. where she recorded her most famous song, “Pata Pata.”

In her acceptance speech at the University of South Africa, Makeba urged young people to take education seriously. “Don’t play with your lives,” she said. “Get a university degree.”

(Reported by Inter-Press Service.)