An official website of the United States government

A Retrospective: U.S. Civil Society’s Commitment and Contributions to the Anti-Apartheid Struggle
July 2, 2020




Tara Hammons

Project Coordinator

+1 484.515.8151


A Retrospective: U.S. Civil Society’s Commitment and Contributions to the Anti-Apartheid Struggle

Washington, D.C. and Pretoria. The National African American Drug Policy Coalition (NAADPC), in collaboration with the Apartheid Museum, is pleased to announce that it has received seed funding from the U.S. Mission to South Africa to conduct an archival research project documenting the role of American civil society in the anti-apartheid movement and to curate an exhibition in South Africa and the United States.

The longstanding and vital support of American citizens, especially African Americans, in the fight for South African liberation has, unfortunately, received little widespread recognition in South Africa and the United States, despite its significant historical and educational importance. Leading U.S. civil rights activists, students, artists, sports and entertainment figures, politicians, corporate executives, and committed civilians stood against not only the South African Nationalist Party’s apartheid system but made their dissenting voices heard when addressing the U.S. government’s own policies toward the apartheid regime.

Project Director, Howard University professor and Chair of the Howard University Republic of South Africa Project (HURSAP), Professor Jean Bailey explains that: “NAADPC and the Apartheid Museum are thrilled for the opportunity to execute this very important project. Our team of expert historians, researchers, and curators is uniquely qualified to carry out this project, having spent decades involved in studying and documenting the fight for South African liberation and transformation, and telling the stories of South Africans and Americans involved in that struggle.” The project will feature a multimedia exhibition showcasing America’s role in the anti-apartheid movement at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2021. “We are extremely honored to be working again with the Apartheid Museum and its Curator, Emilia Potenza. As the world’s pre-eminent institution committed to documenting and interpreting the rise and fall of the apartheid regime and the heavy toll it took on Black South Africans, the Apartheid Museum is the ideal partner for this project,” Dr. Bailey states.

Professor Sibusiso Vil-Nkomo, recently named Interim Director of the Thabo Mbeki African School for Public and International Affairs at the University of South Africa and Co-Chair of the project’s Advisory Committee, asserts that, “the initiated project is timely and long overdue. The struggle against the dehumanization, oppression, exploitation and serious neglect of Black South Africans became a rallying point throughout the world. One of the center stages of this human battle was in the United States where Black South Africans interacted with African Americans and progressive White Americans from the 1800s. This was to be continued into the 1900s and the early 2000s. It is important that this history is now being properly recorded through the initiative. The late Professor Ali Mazrui’s thoughts about ‘Black South Africans and African Americans being the vanguard of development in the 21st century’ still needs to be fulfilled. There is no doubt that the anti-apartheid movement in the USA, as well as others in different parts of the world, was victorious together with South Africans in the country.”

Emilia Potenza, the Apartheid Museum’s Curator explained: “The story of the activism among American citizens in the fight against apartheid is one that is not often publicized, at least not here in South Africa. The Apartheid Museum is proud to partner with the NAADPC in sharing the legacy and important history of the many Americans who joined in the fight against apartheid and for our democracy in the United States.”

The exhibition will premier in Johannesburg and then travel to other regions in South Africa, including Cape Town and Durban. A complementary version of the exhibition will open and travel to multiple venues in the United States.

U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks said, “We are excited to partner with the NAADPC and the Apartheid Museum to record, showcase, and celebrate the great and often unsung contributions that American citizens and organizations made in the anti-apartheid movement. Our chosen partners have envisioned an exciting exhibition to tell and record this aspect of the rich and enduring relationship between the people of South Africa and the United States.”

The project leaders acknowledge and thank U.S. citizens and many South African historians, struggle heroes, and political leaders who already have and will continue to share their insights.

About the NAADPC

The National African American Drug Policy Coalition is a unique collaborative initiative of 26 preeminent African American professional organizations united to address the problem of drug abuse in the African American community with each member organization contributing distinct intellectual content, practices, and procedures for eradicating the deleterious systemic societal effects of drug abuse. The NAADPC further seeks to strengthen partnerships between the United States and countries in Africa and the African diaspora.

About the Apartheid Museum

The Apartheid Museum, the first of its kind, opened in 2001 and illustrates the rise and fall of apartheid. The Museum is acknowledged as the pre-eminent museum in the world dealing with 20th century South Africa, at the heart of which is the apartheid story. Its exhibits have been assembled and organized by a multi-disciplinary team of curators, filmmakers, historians and designers. They include provocative film footage, photographs, text panels and artifacts illustrating the events and human stories that are part of the horrific period in our history, known as apartheid.

About the U.S. Embassy – Pretoria Public Affairs Section

The Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy Pretoria works with the media, cultural and educational institutions, private organizations and other South African organizations to enhance mutual understanding between the people of the United States and South Africa. The Public Affairs Section informs and engages with the South African public through the dissemination of information about the United States, professional and academic exchange programs, cultural performances and exchanges, and youth programs.