Speaker: Carol Anderson (Emory University) – more about this lecture…
In 1993, shortly after his release from Robben Island, future President of South Africa Nelson Mandela addressed the NAACP annual convention. Mandela told the Association members, who “had contributed everything from $20 bills to $1,000 checks in a fund-raiser for the ANC”, that “‘We have come as a component part of the historic coalition of organizations, to which the NAACP and the ANC belong that has fought for the emancipation of black people everywhere.'”

Indeed, many of the strategies that brought about the collapse of apartheid – the isolation of South Africa in the UN, boycotts, divestment, and media attention focused on the brutality of white supremacy – were designed by a transnational team of activists in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

One of the first sustained skirmishes occurred when South Africa, swimming against the tide of colonial and racial history, attempted in 1946 to annex the adjacent international mandate of South West Africa (current-day Namibia). Pretoria was confident of UN approval for such an unprecedented move. Yet, into the breach -and into the United Nations – stepped an unlikely duo, the Reverend Michael Scott and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to stop the absorption of 350,000 Africans into a white supremacist state.

This seemingly odd couple, a maverick, communist-leaning Anglican minister and a staid, staunchly anti-communist bureaucratic organization, launched a skillful assault in the UN by linking the destructiveness of colonialism with white supremacist domestic rule. Within the span of five hard-fought years, the NAACP and Scott, wielding one human rights charter after the next, had carved out the political space in the UN for non-governmental organizations to debunk the myth of the white man’s burden and to challenge the legitimacy of apartheid.

In her talk, Professor Anderson will explore the intersection of domestic and international history, recapturing the vision and the actions of the black political center in the anti-colonial and global freedom movements.

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