Primary Source Analysis

Please read the attached articles (five in total) and read instructions, Word document labeled Primary Source 3 to complete the questions based off the readings. Thank you.

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The Singing is Over, Julius Lester, The Angry Children of Malcolm X, November 1966 (

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Source: Australasian Journal of American Studies , December 2015, Vol. 34, No. 2
(December 2015), pp. 44-58

Published by: Australia New Zealand American Studies Association

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Australian Catholic University

ABSTRACT : Just as opposition to Soviet communism had served as a
measure of American patriotism during the Cold War, so too did opposition
to apartheid evolve to signify the commitment to racial justice in the United
States during the Reagan era. In expanding Jacquelyn Dowd Hall ‘s “The
Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past “framework
it has been possible to break new ground in the historical analysis of the US
anti-apartheid movement. The “long movement” has allowed an historical
analysis of the profound role the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the
civil rights movement played in the US anti-apartheid movement during the
Reagan era. There is a multi-faceted historical connection between the civil
rights movement and the peak of anti-apartheid activism in the United
States during the 1980s, and it is this connection which this article seeks to
uncover and analyse.

The US anti-apartheid movement launched into public consciousness in
November 1984, when three prominent African Americans were arrested at
the South African embassy in Washington, DC. The embassy sit-in marked
the beginning of a twelve-month protest in which thousands of citizens were
arrested, and local anti-apartheid movements proliferated in cities and
universities across the United States. The tactics, reminiscent of the civil
rights movement, facilitated media and popular interest in US diplomatic
relations with South Africa and came to the forefront of US politics.

Although the role of African Americans in the US anti-apartheid movement
in the 1980s was fundamental to its success, the US anti-apartheid
movement is a relatively neglected area of study in African American
history. Indeed, the role of African Americans in this movement was not
considered until Francis Nesbitt’s Race for Sanctions: African Americans
Against Apartheid, 1946-1994 in 2004. This article analyses the
contributions of African American individuals and organisations to US anti-
apartheid activism, with particular emphasis on the strategy of linking anti-
apartheid to the traditions of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It adds a
new layer to our understanding of how African Americans struggled against
apartheid, focusing more attention than has been given previously on the

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legacy of US civil rights in energising black anti-apartheid activism in the
United States at the peak of the movement.

The first historical analysis of the US anti-apartheid movement was Robert
Massie’s Loosing the Bonds: The United States and South Africa in the
Apartheid Years, which linked the internal struggles against apartheid in
South Africa with anti-apartheid politics in the United States from 1948 to
1994. However, the role of African Americans in the US anti-apartheid
movement was not considered until Francis Nesbitt’s Race for Sanctions.
Nesbitt’s book is the only in-depth examination of African American anti-
apartheid organisations. The third major historical study of the US anti-
apartheid movement, David Hostetter’s Movement Matters: American
Antiapartheid Activism and the Rise of Multicultural Politics, is a
postmodern approach to social movement theory that concentrates on the
shift away from simple black-white politics to multiculturalism in the 1990s,
illustrated in the anti-apartheid movement.1 These historians all acknowledge
the connection between anti-apartheid activism and the civil rights
movement. For example, Massie describes the US anti-apartheid movement
as “the natural extension of America’s turbulent concern about civil rights
and racial justice into the international sphere.”2 However, none of these
historians examine the use of civil rights memory in the US anti-apartheid
movement. This article concentrates on the largely overlooked historical
relationship between the two movements. There is a multi-faceted historical
connection between the civil rights movement and the peak of anti-apartheid
activism in the United States during the 1980s, and it is this connection
which this article seeks to uncover and analyse.

The role of African Americans in the US anti-apartheid movement can be
analysed within two conceptual frameworks. The first framework focuses on
African Americans in the tradition of black internationalism or pan-
Africanism. Pan-Africanism emphasises the African diaspora and sees
blacks as engaged in a collective struggle against the injustices inflicted by
slavery, racism, and colonialism.3 Francis Nesbitt’s Race for Sanctions is an
example of a study of the impact of pan-Africanism on African American
anti-apartheid activists. The second framework in which the US anti-
apartheid movement might be studied is that of “The Long Civil Rights
Movement,” as outlined by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall. Hall’s thesis draws on the
broader connections of the history of African American activism. The “long
movement” calls for historians to recast and extend the traditional civil rights
era in order to challenge the cultural memory of the “King years” and the
linear progression of the struggle to end segregation.4

While these frameworks are not antithetical, the “long movement” allows for
a long duree analysis of black freedom movements in the United States. A

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critical assessment of the use of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the
anti-apartheid movement, further, provides an example of the civil rights
movement speaking to a contemporary challenge. This analysis demonstrates
how the memory of the civil rights movement can be “powerful, dangerous,”
and a “form of forgetting.” Remembrance in anti-apartheid activism can also
be understood as a challenge to the New Right’s distorted appropriation of
the “classical” phase of the civil rights movement and a King “frozen” in
1963, which erased any “political bite.” Adopting Hall’s extended timeline
therefore provides a template for a nuanced analysis of the ways in which the
legacy of King was used by anti-apartheid activists not only for their own
agitation, but also to challenge the ideological basis of conservative “colour-

Anti-apartheid activism in the United States emerged with the establishment
of the apartheid regime in South Arica in 1948. During the 1940s and 1950s,
Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, and A. Philip Randolph were leaders of the
Council of African Affairs. For example, in 1945 the Council organised a
campaign to raise funds for South Africans during a famine; 5,000 people
attended the rally at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.5 In 1946, the
Council supported striking miners and directed attention to the African
National Congress’s struggle against the South African government as it
established apartheid, at a meeting attended by 19,000 people in Madison
Square Garden.6 However, during the anti-communist raids of 1950, the
State Department revoked Robeson’s passport and the organisation was
ordered to submit its membership records to the government. In 1951, Du
Bois was indicted as a foreign agent.7 African American anti-apartheid
activism then became a side issue of the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s anti-apartheid views crystallised after he witnessed
the independence of Ghana in 1957. After his return to the United States,
King joined the American Committee on Africa (ACOA), the leading civil
rights organisation focused on Africa. In 1957 King co-sponsored a
declaration for world leaders to support “world-wide protest against the
organized inhumanity of the government of South Africa.”8 King’s anti-
apartheid advocacy expanded in 1 962, when he met with the South African
Nobel Peace Prize winner, Albert Luthuli. Together they encouraged
economic sanctions against South Africa. By 1964 King had even begun to
rethink his position on the efficacy of nonviolence in South Africa. For
example, at an address in London while he was travelling to receive the
Nobel Peace Prize, he remarked:

In South Africa even the mildest form of nonviolent resistance meets
with years of imprisonment, and leaders over many years have been
restricted and silenced and imprisoned. We can understand how in

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that situation people felt so desperate that they turned to other

It was during this address that King announced his support for the tactic of
economic sanctions. On 10 December 1965 King addressed a Human Rights
Day rally in New York, stating, “to list the extensive economic relations of
great powers with South Africa is to suggest a potent nonviolent path.” 10
The speech illustrated King’s growing radicalism; not once did he mention
traditional forms of nonviolent resistance by South Africans.

However, it was not until the 1970s, with the dramatic rise of black elected
officials in the United States, that anti-apartheid activism became a central
concern for African American leaders.11 These black elected officials created

new black-oriented political institutions, most notably the Congressional
Black Caucus, an organisation representing black interests in Congress, and
TransAfrica. Established in 1977, TransAfrica became the leading African
American foreign policy lobby organisation, concentrating on issues of US
policy towards Africa and the black diaspora.

The idea of a black foreign policy lobby in the United States had been
suggested as early as 1959. Congressman Charles Diggs suggested that the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the
oldest and largest African American civil rights organisation, establish an
office to influence US policy on African issues.12 TransAfrica was
established during the Black Leadership Conference in 1976, as events
coincided to push the injustices in South Africa into full public view.
Particularly notable on this front was the Soweto uprising in South Africa
that resulted in hundreds of school children being shot and killed, and the
rise of the Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement (PRWM) in the
United States protesting the company’s investment in South Africa.

Both the Congressional Black Caucus and TransAfrica were central players
in the US anti-apartheid movement during the Reagan era. They sought to
pressure the US government and companies to divest in the racist state in
order to weaken the ability of the apartheid regime to control blacks.13
However, Reagan and US business used the Sullivan Principles to challenge
the viability of the goals of the US anti-apartheid movement.

In 1977 Reverend Leon Sullivan, the only African American on the board of
directors of General Motors, outlined six steps for US companies in South
Africa to comply with, including desegregation of their business operations.
The Sullivan Principles featured in the Reagan administration’s African
foreign policy, Constructive Engagement.

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The policy of Constructive Engagement was conceived by American Chester
Crocker in an article in Foreign Affairs in 1980. 14 The strategy employed
incentives to encourage moderates in the South African National Party to
gradually reform apartheid through positive economic and diplomatic
engagement. The ultimate goal of Constructive Engagement was to prevent
Soviet expansion into southern Africa. The Reagan Administration believed
that punitive measures, like those advocated by anti-apartheid activists,
would have a destabilising effect on South Africa, isolating its government
and radicalising the black opposition.15

By early 1981, African Americans were concerned with the new Reagan
administrations’ direction on racial matters in both the United States and

South Africa. For example, Nathaniel Clay’s article in the African American
newspaper Chicago Metro News, “Blacks have a Right to Oppose Reagan’s
Africa Policy,” outlined African Americans’ concern about the
administration’s approach to civil rights in South Africa:

It is heartening to see the Black community rising up in anger at the
attempt by the Reagan Administration to clean up South Africa’s
image … whether we are successful or not, Black Americans have a
moral obligation to oppose Reagan at every turn in his tilt towards
four million whites on a continent of half a billion blacks}6

The 1981 Annual TransAfrica fundraising dinner also raised enough money
to extend its anti-apartheid activism into major US cities. African American
anti-apartheid organisations began to work in tandem after the Reagan
administration approved an International Monetary Fund loan of $1.1 billion
to South Africa in 1983. 17 TransAfrica circulated copies of a State
Department cable revealing South Africa’s plan to apply for the loan. Seven
Congressional Black Caucus members responded with a letter to the
Secretary of Treasury Donald Regan, asserting, “a vote for a substantial IMF
loan to South Africa would be yet another counterproductive application of

1 Ä

this Administration’s political commitment to Constructive Engagement.”
Caucus member Walter Fauntroy additionally led a march outside the IMF
headquarters in Washington, DC. Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), King’s civil rights organisation,
also claimed “approval of the loan implies international affirmation of racist
policies of the South African government.”19

On November 21, 1984, four prominent African Americans met with
the South African ambassador to the United States at the South African

embassy in Washington, DC. They demanded the release of all political
prisoners in South Africa, including Nelson Mandela, and a new constitution
for “one man, one vote,” refusing to leave until their demands were met.20

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Three were arrested as one addressed the media waiting outside the embassy.
After their release from jail, the group announced the formation of the Free
South Africa Movement, a coalition of individuals, organisations, and unions
dedicated to overturning apartheid in South Africa.21

The Free South Africa Movement began a twelve-month protest in
which protesters were arrested daily at the South African embassy. From
1984 anti-apartheid sentiment gained momentum in the United States with a
series of events coinciding, including the re-election of Reagan, increasing
violence in South Africa, and the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to South
African bishop Desmond Tutu. These events allowed Randall Robinson,
executive-director of Trans Africa and instigator of the first embassy sit-in, to
capitalise on this momentum and create a mass anti-apartheid movement to
pressure Congress to pass sanctions legislation, as well as to challenge
Reagan’s approach to domestic race relations.

Randall Robinson selected the other members of the embassy sit-in,
not only because of their previous anti-apartheid activism, but also because
of their historical civil rights connections. The Congressional Black Caucus
member, Walter Fauntroy, had previously been the Washington branch
director of the SCLC and was involved in many of the major civil rights
campaigns.22 Mary Frances Berry was chosen because of her position as a
board member of the US Commission on Civil Rights, the agency
monitoring the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She was well
known by African Americans at the time because Reagan had removed her
from the position and replaced her with a conservative administration-
friendly commissioner. 23 Georgetown University Law Professor Eleanor
Holmes Norton had been an organiser for the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee and was highly involved during the civil rights
protests.24 Norton’s involvement in civil rights continued when President
Jimmy Carter appointed her as the first female chair of the US Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission, another organisation subsequently
weakened by the Reagan Administration.25

One of Robinson’s goals in establishing the Free South Africa
Movement was to challenge the Reagan administration’s misappropriation of
King’s legacy. Reagan’s rhetoric on Martin Luther King, Jr. disconnected
contemporary racial tensions from those of the past, by locating the civil
rights movement within an idealised narrative of American progress.26 The
King remembered by Reagan advocated that people be judged “not by the
colour of their skin but the content of their character” – nothing more.27 The
conservative civil rights rhetoric situated Reagan’s political agenda,
attacking programs of “reverse-racism” and civil rights protections, within
the context of the “true” goal of the civil rights movement: colour-blind

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equality.28 Reagan’s civil rights rhetoric and the conservative
misappropriation of King were used to attack policies and programs
beneficial to African Americans, and freed the federal government of
responsibility for improving the social, political, and economic condition of
African Americans.

However, ironically, the anti-apartheid activists’ also, at times,
skewed the memory of King to enhance their own agenda. Many of the
connections with the civil rights movement were consciously developed: in
particular, comparisons of Bishop Desmond Tutu and King. For example,
the Chicago Metro News reported the Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded
to Tutu, “generally viewed as the Martin Luther King … of his country.”29
As Chester Crocker observed in his autobiography, Randall Robinson
simplified the civil rights movement to fit into catchy anti-apartheid

While opposing the racial policies implemented by Reagan, the
African American anti-apartheid movement was prepared to validate the
appropriation of King for their own agenda. To address this limitation,
Trans Africa endeavoured to emphasise the differences between South
African brutality and the brutality witnessed in the pre-civil rights American
South. Robinson published an article in Ebony in 1985, in which he
attempted to clarify the differences between the civil rights movement and
anti-apartheid activism. When recalling his 1976 trip to South Africa,
Robinson described the experience as “another world, closed off,
dramatically crueller than the old south of my memoiy.”31 However, the
media and anti-apartheid activists continued to view South Africa in a “black
vs. white” framework, and the attempts to widen African American
understanding of apartheid in order to challenge Reagan’s civil rights
rhetoric were undermined.

The correlation between anti-apartheid activism and the civil rights
movement was further entrenched with the embassy arrests of civil rights
legends. Rosa Parks, who sparked the civil rights movement in 1955 when
she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus, was arrested in the
South African embassy protests. Coretta Scott-King was arrested for the first
time in her life with her children at the South African embassy in June
1985.32 As they were detained they sang the civil rights anthem “We Shall
Overcome.” Harry Belafonte, the singer, actor, civil rights activist, and a
leading advocate for anti-apartheid activism as a board member of
TransAfrica, was also arrested. The executive-director of SCLC, Joseph
Loweiy was arrested three days after the formation of the Free South Africa

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In the twelve months of protest in Washington the total number of
arrests amounted to over 5,000, and included nearly every member of the
Congressional Black Caucus. The success of the tactic resulted in the district
attorney dropping all charges to “prevent the clogging of the courts.”34 The
act of civil disobedience, reminiscent of the civil rights movement, spread
into anti-apartheid campaigns throughout the United States, including in
cities such as Seattle, New York, and San Francisco.

The correlation between anti-apartheid activism and the civil rights
movement continued on the anniversary of King’s assassination. As Simon
Anekwe wrote in the black newspaper New York Amsterdam News, anti-
apartheid protests “[had] all been in keeping with Dr. King’s “appeal for
action.”35 For example, Columbia University students marched to Hamilton
Hall and chained shut an entrance to the building. The students demanded
the university disinvest in companies doing business in South Africa. The
students remained at the entrance for three weeks, until university officials
threatened them with expulsion. Once the blockade was over, the students
adopted civil rights tactics by marching to a rally at Canaan Baptist Church
in Harlem.37 The rally was led by Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker, who had
once been chief of staff to Martin Luther King.

In April 1985, the New York Times reported a total of twenty
separate sanctions bills pending in the US Congress.38 US media interest in
the violence in South Africa assisted in maintaining support for the US anti-
apartheid movement and in increasing pressure on the administration and
Congress to address economic sanctions. Reagan signed Executive Order
12532, introducing minor economic sanctions on South Africa to placate
Congress on foreign policy, which was traditionally a matter for the
executive.39 The Order banned the sale of computers to South African
government agencies, prohibited nuclear cooperation, and banned imports of
the Rand.40 The Reagan administration furthermore began to pressure South
African president P.W. Botha to introduce substantial change. 1

However, Botha’s response was a public relations disaster for the
Reagan administration, with Botha announcing he was not prepared to
institute meaningful reforms, stating at one point, “I am not prepared to lead
white South Africans and other minority groups on the road to abdication
and suicide.”42 After the speech, US National Security Advisor Robert
MacFarlane admitted to Crocker that the speech reminded him of US
segregationist Bull Connor and suggested that Congressional economic
sanctions were now all but inevitable. To retain executive control, Vice
President George H.W. Bush told the 77th Annual Convention of the
NAACP that “apartheid must end.”43 The administration then leaked that

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Reagan was considering appointing an African American ambassador to
South Africa.

Parallels between Bishop Tutu and King continued to be made by a
number of African Americans. During the “Family Affair” convention in
Atlanta in August 1985, music and radio pioneer Jack Gibson introduced
Tutu as “an echo of the bravery that propelled the late Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr.”44 In January 1986, Tutu received the Key to the City of Newark,
New Jersey, where more than half the population was African American.
During the ceremony Tutu told the largely black audience, “Racism
anywhere threatens freedom everywhere.”45 This statement echoed King’s
assertion that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”46

During a sermon he delivered at St. Marks United Methodist Church
in Harlem, Tutu asked his audience not to overlook domestic problems:
“often it is wonderfully easy to be good to people who are over there and yet
you have problems here.”47 The African American understanding of Tutu
within the framework of King was most clearly demonstrated in January
1986, however, when Tutu was awarded the Martin Luther King Peace
Prize, on the first observance of the Martin Luther King Holiday. His speech
opened with the words, “I tremble as I stand in the shadow of so great a
person,” acknowledging their shared commitment to justice, peace, and
reconciliation, before closing with a quote from King: “Free at last, thank
God almighty, we’re free at last.”48

Tutu’s adoption of King’s rhetoric made comparisons inevitable. In
Atlanta, Tutu also preached at King’s pulpit, the Ebenezer Baptist Church,
and pledged a “campaign of civil disobedience against unjust laws.”49
Coretta Scott-King saw the day as “the launching of a new and intensified
phase in the struggle to end apartheid.”50 The celebration of the first Martin
Luther King Holiday as a day of anti-apartheid protest established a tradition
that was to continue until the end of the US anti-apartheid movement.

This representation of anti-apartheid activism within the framework
of King and the civil rights movement was successful in dividing the
Republican Party and permitted the passage of the Comprehensive Anti-
Apartheid Act of 1986. The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act was passed
over Reagan’s presidential veto, with 37 Republicans crossing the floor
against the president.51 After the passage of the Act, the US anti-apartheid
movement faltered. Black leaders attempted to reinvigorate public support
by linking racism in the United States with apartheid, and continued to
invoke Martin Luther King, Jr. as African Americans were confronted by a
resurgence of white racist violence.

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The outbreak of racial violence in the United States after 1986

enabled African Americans to develop anti-apartheid campaigns that were
increasingly associated with, and dedicated to, King. Martin Luther King
Day, in particular, became a focal point for anti-apartheid activism. In
January 1986, six members of the Free South Africa Movement staged a sit-
in at the Shell Oil Company office in Washington. Headed by Randall
Robinson, the group demanded Shell’s parent company Royal Dutch/Shell
Group disinvest in South Africa. The sit-in was timed to mark the birth of
Martin Luther King and was supported by African American civil rights
organisations, including the SCLC, the NAACP, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow
Coalition and the A. Philip Randolph Institute.52

The legacy of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King, Jr.
also extended into US diplomacy in South Africa. Edward Perkins, a career
diplomat, was the first African American ambassador to South Africa,
appointed by Reagan in 1986. The appointment was to be symbolic both for
the South African government and African American leaders, perhaps
representing a new direction for Constructive Engagement, and was
supported by Reverend Leon Sullivan and Coretta Scott-King.53

As ambassador, Perkins instituted a new US approach to South
Africa that focused on developing relations with liberation organisations.
When asked by a reporter why he attended a black South African protest,
Perkins responded, “Do you remember Martin Luther King Jr. ‘s Letter from
Birmingham Jail? I am here to represent the United States because injustice
is being done.”54 The role of King in his understanding was further
illustrated when Perkins commissioned a bust of King “to stand for
perpetuity” at the US embassy in Pretoria.55

In the United States the second Martin Luther King Holiday in 1987
was marked by small anti-apartheid protests, including a shantytown built in
the lobby of Citicorp in New York. 6 The protesters “hoped that such non-
violent actions [would] provide an appropriate commemoration of Martin
Luther King’s life.”57

Anti-apartheid activists created controversy after the Martin Luther
King Holiday Commission issued an advertisement asking people to become
“a part of history” by having their names laser-inscribed by IBM computers
on a commemorative time capsule.58 IBM, historically the largest computer
supplier to South Africa, had officially divested from South Africa in 1987,
however their products continued to be sold in South Africa and the
company came under attack from anti-apartheid activists.

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Martin Luther King Day continued to be a rallying point for anti-
apartheid demonstrators and linking South African leaders with the legacy of
King. The 1 987 Martin Luther King International Award was bestowed upon
Alan Boesak, a “coloured” clergyman from South Africa.59 Boesak, with
Tutu, was one of the few black leaders still advocating non-violence. Los
Angeles executive-director of the SCLC Mark Ridley-Thomas said of
Boesak, “He has given witness [to King’s philosophy of non-violence] with
his work and his life.”60 Indeed, he was “one of the leading exponents of
Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘s thought.”61

Anti-racism activists also highlighted the contemporary connections
between apartheid and racial problems in the United States. For example,
after a march in Forsyth County Georgia, marchers were attacked by white
supremacists and members of the Ku Klux Klan with stones and bottles. This
attack came one month after three black men were viciously beaten – one
fatally – by a white mob in Howard Beach, New York. A second march in
response to the attacks was organised by Coretta Scott-King, Reverend Jesse
Jackson, and Joseph Lowery. The march attracted an estimated 20,000
people under the banner reading, “No Compromise – End US and South
African Racism.”62 During the march, participants sang civil rights anthems
like “We Shall Overcome” and chanted “Forsyth County, have you heard?
This is not Johannesburg!”63 The second march had to contend with 5,000
racist counterdemonstrators carrying a banner, “A Trade Proposal for South
Africa: Your Whites for our Blacks.”64 The continuing race problems in the
United States illustrated during the Forsyth County marches became a focus
of anti-apartheid activism.

African American students from the University of Michigan used the
1987 anniversary of the assassination of King to march to the black
community, Ann Arbor, to illustrate the connection between domestic racism
and apartheid, in response to racial attacks on campus and continuing low
black enrolment.65 The march followed a failed sit-in, which had protested
the University’s refusal to award an honorary degree to Nelson Mandela.66
Mandela at the time was designated an international terrorist outlaw by the
State Department. To commemorate Martin Luther King Day in 1987, the
Washington Office on Africa coordinated the “First Annual Martin Luther
King Symposium on Southern Africa.” More than 1,500 people convened in
Washington to attend the three-day conference.67 Jesse Jackson was a
keynote speaker at the rallies. Two thousand people attended the second
Symposium in 1988.68

In New York, on the twentieth anniversary of King’s assassination
in 1988, there was a march “in his spirit against US investment in South
Africa.”69 On the 25th anniversary of the March on Washington, 55,000

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people travelled to the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his “I have a
Dream” speech in 1963. 70 Many civil rights leaders attended, including
Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, Reverend Joseph Lowery and
Congressman Walter Fauntroy. The celebratory march had shifted the
emphasis of the original to include the downfall of apartheid.71

Although Jesse Jackson advocated a policy to classify apartheid as a
terrorist state, the campaign strategy of the Democratic Party in the 1988
presidential elections was to avoid addressing black and other minority
concerns; this meant the issue of apartheid was largely ignored.72 In 1989,
the incoming President George H.W. Bush quickly distanced himself from
the term Constructive Engagement and criticised apartheid. Bush hoped to
quieten anti-apartheid protest in the United States without isolating his right-
wing support. The election of Bush also coincided with a change in
leadership in South Africa. F.W. de Klerk granted Nelson Mandela
unconditional release from prison and legalised opposition groups. This
marked the beginning of the end of apartheid in South Africa, as well as the
anti-apartheid movement in the United States.

Just as opposition to Soviet communism had served as a measure of
American patriotism during the Cold War, so too did opposition to apartheid
evolve to signify the commitment to racial justice in the United States during
the Reagan era. As Republican Senator Robert Dole complained, apartheid
had “become a domestic civil rights issue.”73

Studies of the US anti-apartheid movement have traditionally
overlooked the unique position of African Americans in the struggle. While
Francis Nesbitt undertook the challenge to address this gap his study left
particular phenomena unexplored. In expanding Hall’s “long movement”
framework, it has been possible to break new ground in the historical
analysis of the US anti-apartheid movement. The “long movement” has
allowed an historical analysis of the profound role the legacy of Martin
Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement played in the US anti-
apartheid movement during the Reagan era. This article also opens the door
for future scholars to approach the history of US anti-apartheid activism
from a new perspective, one which recognises the importance the civil rights
legacy in the US anti-apartheid movement.


1 David Hostetter, Movement Matters: American Antiapartheid Activism and the Rise of
Multicultural Politics, (New York, NY: Routledge, 2006), 258.
Robert Massie, Loosing the Bonds: The United States and South Africa in the Apartheid

Years (New York: Doubleday, 1997), xxvii.
Tunde Adeleke, “Black Americans and Africa: A Critique of the Pan-African Identity

Paradigms,” International Journal of African Historical Studies, 31, no.3, (1998): 505.

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4Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the
Fast,” Journal of American History, 91(4), (2005), 1237.
Francis Nesbitt, Race for Sanctions: African Americans Against Apartheid, 1946-1994,
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 5.
6 Ibid, 6.
7 “National Committee to Defend Du Bois and Associates,” Plaindealer, 5 October 1951, 1.
8 James Pike and Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter to Ambassador Chester Bowles Nov. 8,
1957” http://mlk-
owles /, accessed 3 October 2013.

Martin Luther King, Jr. “Speech on South Africa in London Dec. 7, 1964” , accessed 3 October 2013.

Martin Luther King, Jr., “Address of Martin Luther King on December 10, 1965 to the
South Africa Benefit of the American Committee on Africa”, accessed
25 July 2013.

The dramatic rise of black elected officials is documented by the following historians,
Kevern Verney, Black Civil Rights in America (Hoboken, NJ: Taylor & Francis, 2012), 89.
Kerry Haynie, African-American Legislators in American States, (New York, NY: Columbia
University Press, 2012), 2. Manning Marable, Beyond Black and White: Transforming
African-American Politics, (New York, NY: Verso, 1995).

Nesbitt, Race for Sanctions, 35.
Economic sanctions are penalties applied by one country on another. Divestment is the

antithesis of investment, or the removal of business from a country. Disinvestment refers to
economic boycotts to pressure a company to divest in South Africa.

Chester A. Crocker, “South Africa: Strategy for Change,” Foreign Affairs, 59 no.2, (1980):

15 Ibid, 327.

Nathaniel Clay, “Blacks Have a Right to Oppose Reagan’s Africa Policy,” Chicago Metro
News , 19 September 1981, 3.

Nathaniel Clay, “South Africa: A Sick Joke on All of Us,” Chicago Metro News , 13
August 1983, 3.

“Congressional Opposition to IMF Loans to South Africa,” Excerpt from the letter from
Seven Members of the Congressional Black Caucus Oct. 19 1982, (Washington, DC: Center
for International Policy, 1982), 2.
19 Joseph Lowery quoted in, “Lowery Opposes IMF Loan to South Africa,” Chicago Metro
News , 4 December 1982, 4.

Randall Robinson, Defending the Spirit: A Black Life in America, (New York, NY: Plume,
1999), 152.
21 Courtland Milloy, “Blacks Form Free S. Africa Movement,” Washington Post , 24
November 1984, CI.
22 Charles W. Carey, Jr., African American Political Leaders, (New York, NY: Facts on File,
2004), 95.

Mary Frances Berry, And Justice for All: The United States Commission on Civil Rights
and the Continuing Struggle for Freedom in America, (New York, NY : Alfred A. Knopf,
2009), 206.
24 Joan Lester, Eleanor Holmes Norton : Fire in My Soul, (New York, NY : Atria Books,
2003), 110.

Hal Marcovitz, African-American Leaders: Eleanor Holmes Norton , (Philadelphia, PA:
Chelsea House, 2004), 59.
26Dowd Hall, “The Long Civil Rights Movement,” 1238.
27 Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream”, accessed 14 October 2013.

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28 Denise Borstoff & Steven R. Goldzwig, “History, Collective Memory, and the
Appropriation of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Reagan’s Rhetorical Legacy,” Presidential Studies
Quarterly , 35 no.4, (2005): 662.
“Tutu Wins Nobel Peace Prize,” Chicago Metro News , November 1984, 1.
Chester Crocker. High Noon in Southern Africa : Making Peace in a Rough Neigbourhood,

(New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 1992, 258.
Randall Robinson, “South Africa,” Ebony, May 1985, 133.
Laurel Miller, “Coretta King Arrested at Embassy,” Washington Post , 27 June, 1985, C3.
“Congressman and Rights Leader Arrested at South African Embassy,” New York Times ,

27 November 1984, A20.
34 Karyln Barker and Ed Brüske, “Charges Against 1 1 Arrested in Embassy Sit-in Dropped,”
Washington Post , 1 December 1984, Bl.
35 Simon Anekwe, “Anti-Apartheid Rally for Dr. King” New York Amsterdam News, 13
April, 1985, 2.

Larry Rohter, “Protesters at Columbia Unwavering,” New York Times, 19 April 1985, B3.
Larry Rohter, “Columbia Protest Ends, but New Action is Vowed,” New York Times, 26

April 1985, B4.
Bernard Gwertzman, “Congress Turns its Eye on Race in South Africa,” New York Times,

10 April 1985, A20.
3 Ronald Reagan, “Executive Order 12532 – Prohibiting Trade and Certain Other
Transactions Involving South Africa, Sept. 9, 1985”*efd
0fee5343905cffa0f0 1 58ab4a75 1 e&HitCount=9&hits= l+2+3+d+e+f+ lbc+66f+72c+& Search

Form=F%3a’Reagan_Public_Web’search’speeches’speech_srch_form.html, accessed 1 7
October 2013.
40 Ibid.

Ronald Reagan, “Remarks to Reporters on the Signing of Executive Order 12532, Sept. 9,
0fee5343905cffa0f0 1 58ab4a75 1 e&HitCount=5&hits=44c+5b5+6e2+8bc+8ca+&SearchFor

m=F%3a’Reagan_Public_Web’search’speeches’speech_srch_form.html, accessed 26 October

42 P.W. Botha, “Rubicon Speech August 15, 1985”
http://www.nelsonmandela.Org/omalley/index.php/site/q/031v0 1 538/04W0 1 600/051v0 1 63 8/0
61v01639.htm, accessed 13 October 2013.
43 George Bush quoted in James Dickenson, “Bush at NAACP Convention, Defends Policy
on S. Africa,” Washington Post, 4 July 1986, A 12.

Jack Gibson quoted in, “Freedom Fighter,” Chicago Metro News, 24 August 1985, 2.
4 Tutu quoted in Elizabeth Kolbert, “In Newark, Tutu Praises Jersey’s Divestiture,” New
York Times, 13 January 1986, A4.

Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail 1963”, accessed 1 3
October 2013, 3.
4 Desmond Tutu quoted in Elizabeth Kolbert, “In Newark, Tutu Praises Jersey’s
Divestiture,” New York Times, 13 January 1986, A4.
48 Desmond Tutu quoted in Craig Prentis, “MLK, Jr. and the Making of an American Myth”
in Ed. Colleen McDannell, Religions of the United States in Practice, (2), (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 2001), 323.

Desmond Tutu quoted in “Tutu takes Pulpit for King,” Chicago Tribune, 20 January 1986,

50 Coretta Scott-King quoted in, David Treadwell, “Tutu pays Homage to King in Atlanta,”
Los Angeles Times, 20 January 1986, A8.

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51 Richard Lugar, “S. 2701: Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986”
http://thomas. :40 : ./temp/~bdZ Y yR: @@@L&summ2=m&,
accessed 13 Ocober 2013.

Walter Fauntroy quoted in “Apartheid Foes End Sit-in at Shell Oil,” Washington Post , 16
January 1986, c5.
Edward Perkins and Connie Cronley, Mr Ambassador: Warrior for Peace , (Norman, OK:

University of Oklahoma Press, 2006), 262.
54 Ibid, 321.
55 Ibid, 3.

“The Need to Cut All Bank Ties to S. Africa,” SCAR News, 1 February 1987, 1.
^American Friends Service Committee, “Human Rights Day Protest Challenges
Corporations,” United States Anti-Apartheid Newsletter (2), (Philadelphia, PA, 1987), 4.
58 American Friends Service Committee, “Tears and Cheers,” United States Anti-Apartheid
Newsletter (2), (Philadelphia, PA, 1987), 3.

Edward Boyer, “Award to Clergyman to Top King Week,” Los Angeles Times, 1 1 January
1987, B3.
60 Mark Ridley-Thomas quoted in Edward J. Boyer, “Award to Clergyman Will Top King
Week,” Los Angeles Times, 11 January 1987, B3.

Jack Jones, “Activist S. African Cleric Boesak Honoured for Anti-Apartheid Protests,” Los
Angeles Times , 20 January 1987, 12.

Coretto Scott-King, “Forsyth and Howard Beach: Still a Long, Long Way to Go,” Los
Angeles Times, 28 January 1987, A5.

Kathy McShea, “Marching for Civil Rights in Forsyth,” SCAR News, 2 January 1987, 4.
64 Ibid, 4.

Africa Fund, “Student Movement Hits Domestic Racism and US Corporations,” Student
Anti-Apartheid Newsletter (New York, NY, Spring 1987), 2.

ACOA, “Campuses Across Nation Hold Actions,” SCAR News, 1 May 1987, 5.
Damu Smith and Imani Countess, “The First Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium

on Southern Africa” Washington Office on Africa Educational Fund , (Washington, January
68 African Friends Service Committee, “Washington Office on Africa Second Annual
Symposium a Huge Success” United States Anti-Apartheid Newsletter , (Philadelphia, PA,
1988), 3.

Joyce Pumick, “Protesters and Worshippers Join in Honoring Dr. King in New York,”
New York Times, 19 January 1988, Al.

Janet Crawley, “Politics Joins March on Capital,” Chicago Tribune, 28 August 1988, 1.
Richette Haywood, “Nation’s Eyes Focus on the Poor, Jobless, Peace and Apartheid

during D.C. March,” Jet, 12 September 1988, 4.
Paul Taylor, “Jackson Presses Dukakis on Spending, S. Africa,” Washington Post, 26 May

1988, A4.
Robert Dole quoted in, Yossi Shain, “Multicultural Foreign Policy” in Diversity and US

Foreign Policy : A Reader , Ed. Ernest Wilson, (New York, NY: Routledge, 2004), 121.

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  • Contents
  • p. 44
    p. 45
    p. 46
    p. 47
    p. 48
    p. 49
    p. 50
    p. 51
    p. 52
    p. 53
    p. 54
    p. 55
    p. 56
    p. 57
    p. 58

  • Issue Table of Contents
  • Australasian Journal of American Studies, Vol. 34, No. 2 (December 2015) pp. i-ii, 1-142
    Front Matter
    EDITORIAL [pp. 1-2]
    Review: untitled [pp. 124-126]
    Review: untitled [pp. 126-128]
    Review: untitled [pp. 129-131]
    Review: untitled [pp. 131-133]
    Review: untitled [pp. 133-135]
    Review: untitled [pp. 136-138]
    Review: untitled [pp. 138-140]
    CONTRIBUTORS [pp. 141-142]
    Back Matter

Clark Atlanta University

The United States and South Africa: History, Civil Rights and the Legal and Cultural
Vulnerability of Blacks
Author(s): JoAnne Cornwell
Source: Phylon (1960-), Vol. 47, No. 4 (4th Qtr., 1986), pp. 285-293
Published by: Clark Atlanta University
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By JoAnne Cornwell

The United States and South Africa:
History, Civil Rights and the Legal and

Cultural Vulnerability of Blacks

THE CULTURAL HISTORIES of blacks in the United States and in Southern
Africa provide evidence that on several levels they have been leading

parallel lives. Against the backdrop of international colonialism, the two
nations have emerged along similar lines as industrializing, multi-racial
superpowers in which the role of blacks in the labor force and later in politics
and public life has been crucial. Since the turn of the century, organized
struggle against racial oppression in both nations has followed analogous
patterns. The careers of individual leaders – particularly of Martin Luther
King and Nelson Mandela – bear witness to a consistent feature of black
leadership, that of combining strong moral leadership and effective, if mili-
tant, political intervention. Despite striking parallels on the national, or-
ganizational and individual levels however, there is a disparity in the outcome
of civil rights efforts which is perhaps not as surprising as it is demoralizing.
The civil rights struggle in South Africa has been dramatically less successful,
though modeled on the most successful in the world – that of the United
States. This brief study will evaluate parallels in the cultural histories, the
impact of those histories upon the formation and development of civil rights
movements and the direction taken by those movements in seeking to
minimize the legal and cultural vulnerability of the black populations.

A look at the colonial histories of America and of Southern Africa reveals a

period of several hundred years when European nations were vying with each
other for control of the land and its resources. Indigenous populations were
dealt with in similar ways by European powers, once they were in a position to
mete out decrees. Cultural exchange with indigenous populations was viewed
as inimical to the advancement of European civilization. Whenever possible
the people were used as a labor force for white settlers. When locals could not
or would not be used, slave or indentured populations were imported. This
happened in North, Central and South America as well as in Southern Africa.
The Khoisan, the original population in the Southwestern Cape area, suffered
a fate similar to that of Native Americans. Contact with Europeans in both
cases brought new diseases and wars of attrition which, in addition to
widespread miscegenation, resulted in a drastic decline in their numbers.
Though neither was ever enslaved as a group, their offspring could be made
slaves if that had been the status of one parent. With the development of
plantation economies came the importation of slave labor. The practices of the
Boers of Southern Africa approximated those of European settler groups in
the New World. They imported not only African slaves from West Africa and
Madagascar, but also Malay slaves from the East Indies and Indian slaves from
the Bay of Bengal. Miscegenation between Boers and these groups increased


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the slave population, since, as in the U.S., if one parent – almost always the
mother – were a slave, the child took on that status. Bantu populations, who
constituted an African racial group distinct from the Khoisan, came into
contact with the Boers somewhat later. Though as a group the Zulu, Xhosa,
Shona and other Bantu peoples were never reduced to slavery, like the
Khoisan they were consistently exploited for their labor and suffered many of
the indignities of Africans taken abroad. The first pass laws were instituted by
the Boers between 1809 and 1823.1 As with the Native Americans, unwanted
or excess populations were relegated to reservations and their movements
were restricted. Servitude, whether perpetual or contractual, became the lot
of vast numbers of non-Europeans in America and in Southern Africa during
the colonial period.

Attitudes of cultural superiority among Europeans became evident very
early in both colonial societies, and on all levels the belief in their racial
superiority was manifested. The labor system was largely responsible for
generating these views. “Commitment to a labor regime under which non-
European slaves did virtually all of the menial and subservient work had the
effect of lessening the possibility of class conflict among whites by elevating
all of them to a relatively privileged social status.”2 Such attitudes allowed for
a unique kind of servitude to develop where notions of the inherent inferi-
ority of the underclass were not only at the root of aesthetic principles, but
also at the root of the philosophical, scientific and certainly the religious
tenets in which these civilizations were grounded.3 In short, both nations grew
strong on the slave, indentured or very cheap labor, so necessary to their
economies. Similar kinds of intense exploitation of human resources coupled
with the natural wealth of the land and its mineral resources made for rapid
industrialization in both places. This industrialization was accompanied by a
mind set that attributed the success of European exploitation to a natural
racial superiority.

So far, not much has been said about the colonial histories of the U.S. and
Southern Africa that does not also describe most European colonies of that
period. However, the parallels extend much further. Similar themes emerge
in the struggle of local whites to achieve independence from Europe. In both
the U.S. and Southern Africa, England was the colonial power to be reckoned
with. Toward the end of the 18th century in America, the British were
defeated in the Revolutionary War. More successful in South Africa, the
British for roughly a century would remain a dominant force in shaping
Southern African history. Ironically though, after occupying a position of
dominance for roughly a century, the British would remain true to their

1 This and other historical information has been taken from the text by Neil Parsons, A New History of
Southern Africa (New York, 1983).

2 George M. Fredrickson, White Supremacy: A Comparative Study of American and South African History
(New York, 1981), p. 69.

3 It must be pointed out that the diversity of religious notions in America resulted in early challenges to the
justification of legal inequality in America. The Abolitionist movement, a prime force in shifting American
opinion away from slavery, was also a Christian-based doctrine.

Vol. XLVII, No. 4, 1986


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policies of majority rule, even to the extent of handing over power in South
Africa to the majority white population, the Afrikaners (Boers).

Issues of sovereignty and slavery were central to the conflicts that raged in
these societies during the 19th century. Potential new states in America
fought to hold on to as much sovereignty as they could, often dragging their
feet in hopes of joining the Union only on their own terms. Among the issues
in question was invariably that of whether the state would be admitted to the
Union as a slave or free state. Ultimately, issues of sovereignty and slavery led
to the secession of a number of Southern states, and the Civil War ensued.

Similar issues were at the center of Boer/British conflicts. In Southern Africa,
the 1800s saw an era when Boers began to flee northward and eastward from
growing centers of British control in the Southwest. They formed indepen-
dent states (The Orange Free State, The Transvaal, and Natal) where their
lifestyle, which was based on the legal inequality of the races, would be free
from the pressure of British policies of equality under the law and from
British takeover of the land and industry. However, the Boers were frustrated
in their northeastward trek by encounters with strong Bantu military nations,
notably the Zulu and the Xhosa. With the British pursuing them, Boers finally
dug in and declared war against the British. The South African War, the
equivalent of the U.S. Civil War, lasted from 1899 to 1902.

In the U.S., the North was victorious while in South Africa, the British won
over the Boers: Presumably, the more democratic or liberal faction was now
in control in both countries. Both powers had in fact pressed for the abolition
of slavery and other forms of labor coercion. Two very important distinctions
must be made here, however. First, while in the U.S. the issue of Emancipa-
tion had been central to the conflict, the one in South Africa centered solely
around the terms under which a white federation would be established: Black

liberation was not at issue. Second, though (literally speaking) civil rights
advances in the U.S. were made on the strength of the 13th, 14th and 15th
amendments and not on that of the Emancipation Proclamation, it must be
admitted that the Civil War paved the way for measures decreasing the legal
vulnerability of blacks. In South Africa, though not the military victors,
Afrikaners inherited political control of the new Union of South Africa, and
immediately began instituting measures which increased the legal vulner-
ability of blacks there.

The backlash of Jim Crow legislation after the Civil War, and of Color Bar
laws after the establishment of the Union of South Africa, gave rise to a new
kind of organized struggle by blacks on both fronts. There are parallels in the
organization of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People (NAACP) and the South African Native National Congress (SANNC),
which correspond to the developments outlined above. The year 1912 was the
founding year of the SANNC, which later changed its name to the African
National Congress (ANC). The NAACP had been formed just two and a half
years earlier, providing a model for the SANNC. The strategies of the early
SANNC and NAACP were nearly identical. Both operated on the assumption
that racist attitudes of whites could be changed by their exposure to the
superlative achievements of blacks, and that the support of whites could be


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won through the display by blacks of hard work and patience. There were
similar debates in both organizations over the issue of whether or not blacks
should volunteer to fight in World War I. This was in the face of resistance,
even outrage by whites at the prospect of the participation of blacks. Both the
NAACP and the SANNC endorsed involvement by blacks in war, feeling this
to be the ultimate show of commitment to the greater good of the nation. The
main policy thrust of both organizations was on pressing, lobbying and in
various ways making appeals for constitutional reforms.

Ironically, in light of the significantly different outcomes of wars fought for
the unification of the United States and South Africa, the very fact that this
early phase of struggle in South Africa followed so closely the American
model is problematic. That the era of a new kind of struggle for national
liberation and democratic rights had begun was undeniable. What had precip-
itated the new struggle for black Africans, however, was not related to the
transition from a period of legal servitude to that of full citizenship as in the
U.S. Rather, the SANNC emerged as the inheritors of struggle after the
Bambata rebellion of 1906 had marked the end of the period of what was
called “tribal resistance.” This resistance had proven futile in the face of the
superior organization and technology of the South African government,
whose aim was to fully divest Africans of their land and sovereignty.4 Blacks
in South Africa were moving from an era when African societies had dealt
with Europeans as equals to one where their own status was being systemati-
cally undermined.

The direct relationship between increased social change and increased legal
vulnerability for blacks in South Africa (in the U.S. this relationship tended to
be inverse) is repeated with respect to their cultural vulnerability. The new
elite, which was well represented in the leadership of the SANNC, was facing
a cultural dilemma which, though not unlike that of black leaders in the
NAACP, was much greater in magnitude. In the U.S., though the cultural
status of blacks as Americans (read: the cultural cousins of Europe) was
unresolved, their Africanity was not immediately at issue. For blacks in South
Africa, African and European cultural identities came directly into conflict.
Black leaders were of course Europeanized: The new dispensation all but
required that this be the case. This Europeanization, however, was effectively
in its infancy, and was still being measured against an ancient sense of ethnic
identity, relationship to the land and a strong warrior tradition. By com-
parison, the approach of these leaders tended to be viewed as timid and

Furthermore, to the extent that SANNC leaders had accepted European
standards of civilization, they risked compromising their ability to represent
the majority of their constituency, whose standards of civilization were Afri-
can. The language of their early campaigns betrays this ambivalence, as with

4 Peter Dreyer, Martyrs & Fanatics: South Africa and Human Destiny (New York, 1980), p. 120.
5 Mokgethi Motlhabi, Black Resistance to Apartheid (Johannesburg, 1984), p. 39.

Vol. XLVII, No. 4, 1986


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the call for “equal rights for every civilized man south of Zambesi.”6 Most
members of the elite viewed themselves as citizens of the British Crown, a
status that was at best difficult to document, and at worst, categorically denied
by the government which ruled them and which was becoming increasingly
obstinate in the face of British demands for the modification of its policies. By
1922, the SANNC (by then the ANC) had passed a motion of no confidence in
both the British and South African governments, and was moving toward a
posture which would strive to bring together the legal and cultural aspects of
the struggle.

As the civil rights movements matured in the U.S. and in South Africa,
much activity would for a time center around one dynamic individual. In this
way, the parallel histories make Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela
kindred spirits. In both places, the civil rights movement entered a relatively
radical phase of civil disobedience. In 1949, Mandela, then a member of the
Youth League of the ANC, put pressure on that organization to launch what
was called the Programme of Action. This began a decade of organized direct
action. Civil disobedience in the form of sit-ins, boycotts, stay-at-homes and
strikes were the order of the day. In South Africa during what was called the
Defiance Campaign of 1952 over 8,000 people took part in the various resis-
tance postures of noncooperation. Jails were filled to overflowing because
people refused to pay bail and insisted on serving time. These are the same
strategies that Dr. King would employ a few years later. Through his associa-
tion with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), he would be
instrumental in ushering in a new phase of civil rights activism that departed
from the scope of previous NAACP strategies.7

As their careers matured, differences developed in the ways these two
leaders responded to the pressures of the system. Dr. King remained faithful
to his philosophy of nonviolent/noncooperation until he died in 1968, and this
in the face of a growing call to militancy in the U.S. The following, an excerpt
from one of Dr. King’s speeches during a voter registration campaign, gives an
illustration of this philosophy.

We must work the courts, through legislation, through the ballot…. I’ve tried to
talk in militant terms for the past few minutes. But in the midst of this militancy let
us always realize that we don’t have to hate as we try to straighten this situation
out…. If we will but try this way, we will be able to change these conditions and
yet at the same time, we win the hearts and souls of those who have kept these
conditions alive.

I know the temptation which comes to all of us…. So many doors are closed in our
faces, and there is a temptation for us to end up with bitterness, and I understand
these people who have ended up in despair…. No, we need not hate. We need not
use violence. There is another way…. A way as old as Jesus saying, “Turn the other
cheek.” When he said that he realized that turning the other cheek might bring
suffering sometime….

6 Thomas Karis and Gwendolen M. Carter, eds., From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African
Politics in South Africa 1882-1964 (4 volumes Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1972, 3, 7) I1:8, p. 8.

7 For detailed information on Dr. King’s relationship with the NAACP and other Civil Rights organizations, see
Aldon D. Morris, The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement (New York, 1984).


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There is a power in that way, and if we will follow this way, we will be the
participants in a great building process that will make America a new nation…. Let
us have faith in the future.8

Several aspects of Dr. King’s philosophy are brought to light here. Dr. King
preserved the legacy of the early days of the NAACP in his attitude that
whites could be won over by good example. He also recognized the need not
only for direct political action, but also for civil disobedience, which is consis-
tent with SCLC tactics. Though very much aware of the more militant pos-
tures growing in popularity around him, Dr. King held firm to the kind of
moral leadership that will remain his trademark for all time.

What had been for Dr. King a radical shift from direct political action to
civil disobedience gave new energy to the civil rights movement in America.
Ironically, as the 1960s drew to a close, Dr. King’s strategies were considered
by many to be too conservative for the needs of Afro-Americans. It is tempt-
ing to speculate whether or not Dr. King’s attitudes towards nonviolence
would have changed had he lived longer, or about the effects on his popu-
larity had he lived and remained true to his philosophy of nonviolence. With
Nelson Mandela, speculation is unnecessary. From hiding, in June of 1961 he
published an article which clearly stated his position on this question.

Though the article was published one month after a major social crisis, its
tone is surprisingly nonreactionary. White South Africa had voted on a refer-
endum declaring itself a Nationalist Republic. The ANC, which had been
banned but was still operational, called an extremely successful nonviolent
general strike for that day which provoked the largest mobilization by South
African police and military forces since the war. This crisis occurred only a
few months after the close of the Treason Trial, an ordeal that had lasted four
and a half years and during which Mandela and 155 other leaders had been
charged with being involved in an international communist plot to overthrow
the South African State by violence. Though all were acquitted, it was largely
because of this ordeal that Mandela had chosen to go into hiding. The govern-
ment was clearly out to get him and he felt it preferable to go into hiding,
continuing to write and organize from underground, rather than allow him-
self to be jailed again and potentially silenced. It is astounding that the follow-
ing quote issues from such a context.

Even up to the present day the question that is being asked with monotonous
regularity up and down the country is this: Is it politically correct to continue
preaching peace and non-violence when dealing with a Government whose
barbaric practices have brought so much suffering and misery to Africans? ….
The strike at the end of May was only the beginning of our campaign. We are now
launching a full-scale, country-wide campaign of non-cooperation with the
Verwoerd Government….

8 This segment of Dr. King’s speech was transcribed from a taped production of excerpts of his speeches: Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., “Danger of Black Supremacy,” We Shall Overcome, Vol. III, Phoenix Entertainment
and Talent, PHX-357-C, 1984.

Vol. XLVII, No. 4, 1986


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We are the people of this country. We produce the wealth of the gold mines, of the
farms, and of industry. Non-collaboration is the weapon we must use to bring down
the Government. We have decided to use it fully and without reservation.9

Less than one year later, however, Mandela’s stance would change dramati-
cally. He had left South Africa illegally to participate with an ANC delegation
to a conference for the Pan-African Freedom Movement of Eastern and

Southern Africa. Here is a quote from the speech he gave there.

During the last ten years the African people in South Africa have fought many
freedom battles, involving civil disobedience, strikes, protest marches, boycotts and
demonstrations of all kinds. In all these campaigns we repeatedly stressed the
importance of discipline, peaceful and non-violent struggle…. But the situation has
not radically altered.
South Africa is now ruled by the gun…. All opportunities for peaceful agitation
and struggle have been closed…. Hence it is understandable why today many of
our people are turning their faces away from the path of peace and non-violence….
Certainly, the days of civil disobedience, or strikes, and mass demonstrations are not
over and we will resort to them over and over again.

But a leadership commits a crime against its own people if it hesitates to sharpen its
political weapons which have become less effective [my emphasis]…. [O]n the night
of 16 December last year the whole of South Africa vibrated under the heavy blows
of UMKONTO WE SIZWE (The Spear of the Nation). Government buildings were
blasted with explosives….
Planned acts of sabotage against Government installations introduce a new phase in
the political situation and are a demonstration of the people’s unshakable determi-
nation to win freedom whatever the cost may be.’?

The significance of the comparison between King and Mandela is only
tangentially related to the question of non-violence per se, or to that of the
presumed inevitability of violent confrontation in liberation struggles, which
has been so lengthily debated elsewhere. What is of concern here is that in the
first case, the dynamic individual was able to radicalize a civil rights move-
ment with an extremely high degree of success and still remain true to those
principles laid down in earlier phases of the struggle, while in the second case,
that individual felt it necessary to employ tactics which ran contrary to those
principles. This indicates a higher degree of appropriateness in the strategies
of civil rights efforts in responding to the climate and political direction of the
nation in the first case. Mandela’s tactical shift should thus be seen as an effort

to better align the posture of his movement by impacting upon the climate and
political direction of South Africa. It should not be viewed as a shift from
nonviolence to violence per se.

History shows that Mandela’s courageous tactical shift was a costly one:
Since 1963, he has been serving a life sentence in prison for plotting to
overthrow the South African government. Nevertheless, his contribution to
the development of civil rights strategies has been immeasurable. He fired the
symbolic first shot of a “civil war” where, unlike that which had resulted in
the formation of the Union of South Africa, black liberation was definitely at

9 Nelson Mandela, No Easy Walk to Freedom (1965; London, 1986), pp. 105-06.
‘0 Ibid., pp. 119-21.


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issue. Also, his tactical shift became paradigmatic for leaders in later phases of
the struggle.

On another level, a movement toward a more clearly defined cultural
stance by blacks in South Africa would follow a few years after Mandela’s
incarceration. The “Black Consciousness” movement11 was so successful in

establishing a basis for cultural identity in the urban centers that not only
blacks but people of Indian extraction and the so-called Coloureds began
identifying with the black struggle. This phenomenon has frustrated govern-
ment efforts to maintain strict physical and ideological separation of the
races.”2 When Steve Biko became president of the South African Students’
Organization (SASO) in 1969, he began to articulate this platform of Black
Consciousness. The thrust was to press for the organization of blacks by
blacks, and to do away with dependence on white liberals in the liberation
struggle. In this he had been inspired by Malcolm X and Ron Karenga’s “US”
movement. Black Consciousness also challenged what Biko called the “myth
of integration.” He asserted that true integration could only ever come about
between parties of relatively equal status (cultural, political and economic).
Biko also affirmed the ideals of Black Theology, of which the most articulate
exponent in the U.S. had been Dr. James H. Cone.13 The concept of black
identity in the context of the Black Consciousness movement was at first
drawn along strict racial lines, but later expanded to include non-whites of all
persuasions. Biko and others realized that unification of all oppressed groups
was the more effective way to launch a serious challenge to the South African
power structure. Later groups would inherit the legacy of a more unified
approach to black liberation. Though they would continue to draw heavily
from American models, they would modify or enhance them, or import tactics
from other sources according to the demands of a contemporary South Afri-
can situation.

Black South Africans continue to resort to such tactics over and over again.
Leaders like Bishop Desmond Tutu who represent the tradition of non-
violent/noncooperation with apartheid enjoy an enormous following. In fact,
one could easily draw a set of parallels between M. L. King and Bishop Tutu.
Both men of the cloth, wedded to a similar philosophy of social activism, were
Nobel Prize winners. The histories of black churches in the two countries are

linked: There were breakaway black churches in the 19th and early 20th
centuries in both places for similar reasons; a phenomenon called “Ethiopian-
ism” linked several black South African churches, and they actually joined up
with the Afro-American AME (African Methodist Episcopal) church. Bishop
Tutu’s speeches display the same kind of marriage between religion and
politics that Dr. King so eloquently embodied. Significantly though, Bishop
Tutu recently has been moving away from a strictly nonviolent position. Like

1See Steve Biko, I Write What I Like, ed. Aelred Stubbs, C. R. (New York, 1978), pp. 87-119.
12 This information taken from an interview by the author with a South African professor of Indian extraction
now teaching in the U.S.: Dr. Neville Choonou, Assistant Professor of Afro-American Studies, State Univer-
sity College at Oneonta, N.Y.

13 See James H. Cone, Black Theology and Black Power (New York, 1969).

Vol. XLVII, No. 4, 1986


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many black South African leaders since Mandela, he seems to be responding
to a compulsion to make the tactical shifts necessary to keep the struggle
aligned with the social and political realities which are making that struggle

It has been asserted that Africans and other non-Europeans were enslaved
initially “not so much because of their color and physical type as because of
their legal and cultural vulnerability.”‘4 The legacies of slavery for Afro-
Americans and similar domination for black South Africans bear witness to

the continued importance of keeping these two factors in focus in efforts to
establish truly egalitarian societies. The success of civil rights and other move-
ments in the U.S. and South Africa in reducing these vulnerabilities can be
used as a standard by which one measures their ability to effectively move
black people toward fuller participation in national affairs. Ultimate success
depends in some measure upon solution-finding strategies that display a high
degree of consistency with dominant ideologies. Clearly, when this consis-
tency does not or cannot exist, tactics must be employed which would align
them by altering either strategies, ideologies, or both. Finally, it is true that
black organizations in the U.S. have consistently provided models which
black South Africans have used with varying degrees of success. Of the many
models to be abstracted from the South African situation for the benefit of
Afro-Americans, one stands out as particularly relevant here: The decrease in
legal and cultural vulnerability is not bound to any chronological historical
sequence. Where these vulnerabilities become or remain acute, subservience
is the likely outcome. It is hoped that this very powerful argument against
complacency will be heeded.

14 Frederickson, White Supremacy, p. 70.


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  • Contents
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  • Issue Table of Contents
  • Phylon (1960), Vol. 47, No. 4, 4th Qtr., 1986
    Volume Information [pp. 331 – 332]
    Front Matter [pp. i – iv]
    The Black Middle Class in America: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives [pp. 253 – 263]
    Sitting Location as an Indicator of Status of Older Blacks in the Church: A Comparative Analysis of Protestants and Catholics in the Rural South [pp. 264 – 275]
    The Origins of Forced Labor in the Witwatersrand [pp. 276 – 284]
    The United States and South Africa: History, Civil Rights and the Legal and Cultural Vulnerability of Blacks [pp. 285 – 293]
    Kunta Kinte’s Struggle to be African [pp. 294 – 302]
    Black American Doctorates in Sociology: A Follow-Up Study of Their Social and Educational Origins [pp. 303 – 317]
    Racial Definition: Background for Divergence [pp. 318 – 326]
    Literature of Race and Culture
    New Light on the Caribbean [pp. 327 – 328]
    The Black Middle Class: Another Look [pp. 328 – 329]
    Back Matter [p. 330]

Afterreading the 3 primary sources posted in Week 13 materials, answer the following questions:

1. Based on these sources, what do you see as some of the “breaking points” in terms of the shift away from strictly non-violent methods of resistance in the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-Apartheid Movement? Your answer should be 3-4 sentences long. Though you do not need to provide any direct quotes, your answer should make reference to the material so that I know what your ideas are based on. Worth 5 points.

2. Do you sense that the authors are violent and are excited about launching violent campaigns against their oppressors, or is this more about being less willing to absorb the violence they encounter? Do you think all three authors share the same vision as they advocate for a move away from strictly non-violent protest? Your answer should be 4-5 sentences long and needs to provide at least one direct quote from the assigned material. The quote does NOT count towards your 4-5 sentences. Worth 10 points.

3. What are YOUR thoughts about the shift away from strictly non-violent protest strategies? Do you think the authors here make a case for this shift? Do you think they are trying to justify something that is immoral/unethical/wrong? Your answer should be 4-5 sentences long and needs to provide at least one direct quote from the assigned material. The quote does NOT count towards your 4-5 sentences. Worth 10 points.

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