“No nation can win a battle without faith,” Steve Biko wrote, and as Daniel R. Magaziner demonstrates in The Law and the Prophets, the combination of ideological and theological exploration proved a potent force. The 1970s are a decade virtually lost to South African historiography. This span of years bridged the banning and exile of the country’s best-known antiapartheid leaders in the early 1960s and the furious protests that erupted after the Soweto uprisings of June 16, 1976. Scholars thus know that something happened—yet they have only recently begun to explore how and why. The Law and the Prophets is an intellectual history of the resistance movement between 1968 and 1977; it follows the formation, early trials, and ultimate dissolution of the Black Consciousness movement. It differs from previous antiapartheid historiography, however, in that it focuses more on ideas than on people and organizations. Its singular contribution is an exploration of the theological turn that South African politics took during this time. Magaziner argues that only by understanding how ideas about race, faith, and selfhood developed and were transformed in this period might we begin to understand the dramatic changes that took place.
Daniel Magaziner teaches South African and nineteenth- and twentieth-century African history at Yale University. He is the author of The Law and the Prophets: Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968–1977 and The Art of Life in South Africa.
“This thoughtful, imaginative intellectual history of South Africa’s black consciousness movement does exactly what the author intended it to do—present a full rather than a solely antiapartheid resistance history of a formative era in the rainbow nation’s emergence from white rule…. A major addition to the revisionary literature on modern South African politics and thought. Highly recommended.”
“A sterling contribution…. Readers are given excellent insights into the organised black politics between the 1960s and 1980s…. This book is a triumph!”
“The Law and the Prophets is intellectual history of the first order. It is a revealing and thought-provoking study of the messiness that attended the evolution of BC, an ideology that sought first to liberate the individual, and then a people, and ultimately, helped transform South African society.”
“The Law and the Prophets is an inspired work of political and intellectual analysis that provides a new baseline for rewriting histories of South Africa’s ever evolving present.”
— Social History/Histoire Sociale
“(M)arvelous and inventive…. (The Law and the Prophets) points a way for future scholars to revisit the legacies of black nationalism, Black Consciousness, and Biko in the years to come.”
“(The Law and the Prophets) is a most informative and enjoyable read which is highly recommended, not only for historians but also for theologians, sociologists and anybody interested in the period. It provides a new way of viewing and interpreting the developments which took place in South Africa in the late-1960s and 1970s and suggests the long-term significance of black consciousness thinking.”
— African Historical Review
“The Law and the Prophets is impressive in its mastering of sources. Substantial oral history research conducted with close to 60 activists, archival material and secondary literature are all deftly interwoven. Trial transcripts are a prominent source, pursued in search of the interior lives of activists and the human drama, personalities and disappointments of the decade. A real strength of the book is thus its ability to depict clearly the language of Black Consciousness activists.”
“Magaziner’s history is transnational…. A fascinating effort to bring together political and religious intellectual history in an innovative way.”
— International Journal of African Historical Studies
“This well researched study provides crucial insights into the more neglected dimensions of BC (Black Consciousness) philosophy and the eventual transition into mass political mobilization through formal organizations. It traces the hardening of political thought in the face of unrestrained state oppression and existential threat, and poses the currently very relevant political question for South Africa of what visions have been lost in the process of concerted struggle.”
— New Political Science Review
“Magaziner’s conscientious work does justice to the intellectual and philosophical project of BC and Black Theology. It sometimes sermonizes, often persuades with insight and passion, and, on occasion, hidden in the depth of this layered analysis, is extraordinarily moving.”
— American Historical Review
“Scholars and students of African and South African liberation history, theology, and intellectual history will find The Law and the Prophets provocative and enlightening. The prose is a pleasure to read and the book is skilfully woven together…. More importantly, Magaziner challenges us to more seriously consider the implications of Black Consciousness in history.”
— South African Historical Journal
“A substantial work of scholarship, The Law and the Prophets is original both in its subject material and in the interpretation that is brought to bear upon it … logically coherent and supported by impressive evidence.”
— author of Mandela, A Critical Life and South Africa: From Mandela to Mbeki
“The Law and the Prophets marks a shift away from definitions of the anti-apartheid struggle that foreground the ANC as a vanguard anticolonial movement. (Magaziner’s) is a study of minor actors and activists who were surprised by their unexpected emergence within national politics….”
— Journal of Interdisciplinary History
“Among the many threads woven together by the Black Consciousness movement, Magaziner convincingly shows the absolute centrality of Christian theology, of the revolutionary ‘Black Christ.’ This is an astonishing book. It is intellectual history of the first order, and the best treatment so far of the most important anti-Apartheid movement of 1970s South Africa.”
— author of Popular Politics in the History of South Africa, 1400–1948 (2010)
“A profound analysis of and meditation on the Christian underpinnings of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.”
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