In 1943, Nelson Mandela—then a law student—joined the ANC and co-founded its youth division, the ANCYL.
Mandela and other young activists had begun to advocate for a mass campaign of agitation against apartheid.
The new leadership of the ANC steered the organization towards a strategy of nonviolent direct action—including strikes, boycotts, and other acts of civil disobedience.
This was known as the "Defiance Campaign." In a 1950 conference that launched the campaign, the ANC-led coalition released a statement saying: All people, irrespective of the national group they belong to and irrespective of the color of their skin, who have made South Africa their home, are entitled to live a full and free life.
From the Defiance Campaign onward, going to prison became a badge of honor among Africans. Mandela and several colleagues were arrested in the 1950s, but they were ultimately acquitted at the end of a long treason trial in 1961.
In an attempt to squash resistance, the South African government also resorted to violent repression.
The second reading examines the fall of apartheid in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the transition to multiracial democracy, and the opening of Nelson Mandela's presidency—particularly his establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Following the readings, this lesson includes an extended research and critical thinking activity.
Students are invited to do independent or group research on the Jim Crow system of segregation that long prevailed in the American South and to compare and contrast it with South African apartheid.
This often involved the forced removal of families from their original homes to the newly-created "bantustans" (or ethnic states).
In other cases, it meant breaking up interracial and inter-ethnic families.