South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid

Acting Against Injustice

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Among those South Africans who deeply opposed apartheid, people made different decisions about what actions – and risks – to take to work for change. The struggle to end apartheid has been achieved and people no longer need to make these same difficult choices, yet how they decided to act may help us reflect on challenges facing some people today or those in other historical situations.

Select an Interview: From the list of interviews, choose one to listen to in its entirety. Use any biographical statement and topics covered in the interview segments to select a person you might find interesting. Several interviewees describe actions they took as teenagers. You might want to write about or post a comment on one of these.

Before Listening to the interview: Calculate or estimate the person’s age at the time of these events in the anti-apartheid struggle and at the time of the interview:
• The Defiance Campaign (1952)
• Adoption of the Freedom Charter (1955)
• Banning of the African National Congress, Pan Africanist Congress and other political parties (1960)
• The beginning of the armed struggle (1961)
• The Durban strikes (1973)
• The Soweto uprising (1976)
• Formation of the United Democratic Front (1983)
• The State of Emergency (1985 /1986 to end of 1980s)
• The first democratic election (1994)
• The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996-1999)

Based on the biographical information you read while selecting the interview and the person’s age at the time of the events listed above, predict what the interviewee will talk about or focus on in the interview.

While listening to the interview: Note what political actions, campaigns, or organizations the person participated in. What did the person say about why he or she decided to take this action or about the conditions under which the action took place? What were the consequences for the person taking these actions? Note the emotions you felt as the person described his or her actions and their consequences. Did the person say anything that surprised you? Why or why not?

After listening to the interview:
List the political actions the person interviewed described. Did he or she indicate whether these actions were successful or unsuccessful – either in the short- or long-term? How did taking these actions affect the person’s life?

How does this person’s personal experience influence his or her perspective and decisions? Does this informant help you understand why the struggle against apartheid included the actions or campaigns he or she describes? Do you think this action would have been effective or appropriate ten years earlier or later?

Write a brief summary of one action the person interviewed took to oppose apartheid. (Refer to Multimedia Resources, Essays or Units in Overcoming Apartheid about this topic if you need additional information about the action or time period.) If he or she describes consequences of this action, include this in your summary. Then write a short reflective statement on whether you think you would have made the same or a different choice.

Post your statement to a group blog set up for this assignment. Read and post a comment about at least two reflections by other students.

AODL African Studies Center MSU Matrix NEH