Paton, Alan Stewart (1903-1988), South African writer and social reformer, whose works condemned apartheid, the policy of racial separation practiced in South Africa from 1948 until the early 1990s. Paton was born in Pietermaritzburg and educated at the University of Natal. He worked as a teacher until 1935 and developed a keen interest in the social and racial problems of South Africa. From 1935 to 1948 he was principal of the Deipkloof Reformatory for delinquent boys near Johannesburg, where he introduced many enlightened reforms.
Paton received great critical and popular acclaim for his first novel, Cry, the Beloved Country (1948), which is distinguished by its compassionate treatment of those caught up in the racial conflicts of South Africa. The work was made into an opera with music by German American composer Kurt Weill and was adapted for several motion pictures. Paton’s second novel, Too Late the Phalarope (1953); his short story collection, Tales from a Troubled Land (1961); and his later novel, Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful (1982), also deal with racial tensions in South African society. In 1955 he published The Land and People of South Africa, a nonfiction work, and in 1968 The Long View, which deals with apartheid. Paton was a founder and president of the multiracial Liberal Party of South Africa until the government banned the group in 1968.