In an excellent addition to the Ohio Short Histories of Africa series, Robert Trent Vinson recovers the important but largely forgotten story of Albert Luthuli, Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize winner and president of the African National Congress from 1952 to 1967. One of the most respected African leaders, Luthuli linked South African antiapartheid politics with other movements, becoming South Africa’s leading advocate of Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent civil disobedience techniques. He also framed apartheid as a crime against humanity and thus linked South African antiapartheid struggles with international human rights campaigns.
Unlike previous studies, this book places Luthuli and the South African antiapartheid struggle in new global contexts, and aspects of Luthuli’s leadership that were not previously publicly known: Vinson is the first to use new archival evidence, numerous oral interviews, and personal memoirs to reveal that Luthuli privately supported sabotage as an additional strategy to end apartheid. This multifaceted portrait will be indispensable to students of African history and politics and nonviolence movements worldwide.
Robert Trent Vinson is the Frances L. and Edwin L. Cummings Associate Professor of History, Africana Studies and International Relations at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of The Americans Are Coming!: Dreams of African American Liberation in Segregationist South Africa. More info →
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The struggle for freedom in South Africa goes back a long way. In 1909, a remarkable interracial delegation of South Africans traveled to London to lobby for a non-racialized constitution and franchise for all. Among their allies was Mahatma Gandhi, who later encapsulated lessons from the experience in his most important book, Hind Swaraj. Though the mission failed, the London debates were critical to the formation of the African National Congress in 1912.
Umkhonto weSizwe, Spear of the Nation, was arguably the last of the great liberation armies of the twentieth century—but it never got to “march triumphant into Pretoria.” MK—as it was known—was the armed wing of the African National Congress, South Africa’s liberation movement, that challenged the South African apartheid government.
First formed in the early twentieth century, the ANC Women’s League has grown into a leading organization in the women’s movement in South Africa. The league has been at the forefront of the nation’s century-long transition from an authoritarian state to a democracy that espouses gender equality as a core constitutional value.
Steve Biko inspired a generation of black South Africans to claim their true identity and refuse to be a part of their own oppression. Through his example, he demonstrated fearlessness and self-esteem, and he led a black student movement countrywide that challenged and thwarted the culture of fear perpetuated by the apartheid regime. He paid the highest price with his life. The brutal circumstances of his death shocked the world and helped isolate his oppressors.