Presentation on theme: "The Global 1960s. Opening image: 1968 Summer Olympics, Mexico City US track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos were members of the Olympic Project for."— Presentation transcript:
Opening image: 1968 Summer Olympics, Mexico City US track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos were members of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, a group which protested racial discrimination in sport around the globe. The OPHR protested heavily against the International Olympic Committee’s plans to readmit apartheid South Africa to competition in 1968. South Africans had last participated in the 1960 Olympics. After being suspended from the 1964 Games, the country was thrown out of the Olympic Committee in 1970. When Smith took the gold and Carlos took the bronze in the 200- meter dash, they raised their fists on the podium. Silver medalist Peter Norman (of Australia) wore an OPHR badge in support. Smith and Carlos were booed by the crowd and expelled from the Games--but their action was received with enthusiasm by advocates of Black Power and critics of apartheid around the globe.
What did Black Power fist mean in apartheid South Africa? How did South Africans even come to encounter this image?
When did the 1960s begin in South Africa? How do we define the 1960s? What political, cultural, and social factors are necessary for this decade to “begin”? And how did these factors inhere in an extremely repressive, racist state?
South Africa’s 1940s 1940s were a time of possibility and change within a segregated state. Horizons seemed to be expanding during and after the Second World War, in which the Union of South Africa, then part of the British Commonwealth, fought for the Allies. The wartime economy boomed-- emboldening black South Africans to demand rights of citizenship. Prime Minister Jan Smuts of the United Party even helped to author the preamble to the United Nation’s charter in 1945.
South Africa’s 1940s In February 1948, the United Party’s Fagan Commission declared that complete racial segregation and restrictions of African settlement in urban areas were economically and politically unsustainable. Then, in May 1948, the National Party narrowly won the all-white election on a platform of apartheid: A policy advocating Afrikaner nationalism, racial and ethnic separation, and white supremacy.
South Africa’s 1950s The 1950s began with a series of disfranchising, racist measures: The Population Registration Act, Immorality Act, Group Areas Act, and the Suppression of Communism Act all took place in 1950. 1952: Extension of “pass laws.” 1953: Bantu Education Act, followed by apartheid in universities from 1959.
South Africa’s 1950s Black South Africans and their allies fought back: Between 1951 and 1953, the African National Congress’ members increased from 7,000 to 100,000, and in 1952 the ANC coordinated the Defiance Campaign Against Unjust Laws. Anti-apartheid activists faced major state persecution, banning orders, and political trials, but anti-apartheid political groups (other than the Communist Party of South Africa) remained legal.
South Africa’s 1950s In this climate of intense political engagement, urban black South Africans nourished a vibrant culture of music and literature, centered around Sophiatown, Johannesburg.
South Africa’s 1950s But in 1953, under the terms of the Group Areas Act, Sophiatown was declared a whites-only area. In February 1955, 2,000 police officers entered Sophiatown and began a forcible removal of its residents to the new planned community of Meadowlands. Removals took eight years. The new, all-white community was renamed “Triomf.”
South Africa’s 1960s In March 1960, the Pan-African Congress called for a nationwide campaign of resistance to urban pass laws. In the town of Sharpeville, police opened fire on non-violent protestors, killing 69. Many were shot in their backs.
This brutality inspired the ANC and PAC to sponsor a nationwide stay-away campaign. Foreign capital fled and many whites planned for emigration. Then, on 30 March 1960, state officials declared a state of emergency, detaining thousands. A week later, the state banned the PAC and the ANC. These organizations--and the Communist Party of South Africa, which had been banned a decade earlier--would remain illegal organizations for the next three decades.
South Africa’s 1960s In 1961, South Africa became a Republic, and under pressure from a rapidly decolonizing international community it left the British Commonwealth. The banned ANC and PAC formed armed wings in exile, called Umkhonto we Sizwe (“the spear of the nation,” also known as MK) and Poqo. Moving from non-violence, they began to launch sabotage campaigns on state targets. And ANC President Albert Luthuli accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, bringing the ANC to the world’s attention.
South Africa’s 1960s Yet at the same time as anti-apartheid activists garnered increasing support from global allies, foreign direct investment continued to bolster apartheid state power. The United States was a prime supporter of apartheid rulers--anti- communist allies in decolonizing Africa, and proud bearers of ostensibly “Christian,” “civilized” values.
South Africa’s 1960s South Africans were therefore positioned strangely within an international context after 1960. On one hand, the regime tried to cut its subjects off from contaminating foreign influences--both to guard against their politicization and to police their morals. Thus TV was banned in South Africa until 1976.
South Africa’s 1960s But on the other hand, apartheid leaders needed to maintain some legitimacy to remain within the moral bounds of the international community of capitalist states. South African officials were thus eager to show the international community how much development they were bringing to their (disfranchised) black subjects.
South Africa’s 1960s Hallmarks of “separate development” were new state-controlled schools, which replaced most of the foreign missionary-controlled institutions that had previously educated black South Africans. Officials also allowed a small number of mission schools to continue--in part to show their religious tolerance to the international community, and in part to ensure that sufficient numbers of well- trained high school students would become doctors, nurses, and teachers, tending to segregated communities.
South Africa’s 1960s Education expanded dramatically in the 1960s, and students comprised an increasing proportion of the black South African population. Whereas just 10% of all Africans in South Africa were in school in 1955, 21% of all Africans were students in 1975. The rapid expansion of schooling combined with the extreme rarity of quality education for black South Africans to fuel student militancy.
South Africa’s 1960s One of the best private institutions for African students that continued through apartheid was the Roman Catholic school at Mariannhill, Natal.
South Africa’s 1960s One of the most important new state-controlled institutions was the University of Natal Non-European Medical School, which opened in 1951 to train black (African, Indian, “coloured”) doctors to tend to black patients.
South Africa’s 1960s The Natal Medical School would be the only medical training institution open to black South Africans between 1960 and 1978, and its students comprised a tiny elite. They were also a politically-assertive elite. At top schools, banned books circulated furtively- -often carried into the country by foreign staff or smuggled to students by relatives in exile.
Steve Biko and SASO Stephen Bantu Biko, born in 1946, graduated from Mariannhill. In 1966, he began his medical studies at the Natal Medical School. At Natal, Biko became engaged in student activism, joining the predominantly white National Union of South African Students (NUSAS).
Steve Biko and SASO Biko and many of his classmates also joined the University Christian Movement (UCM) of Southern Africa, which formed in 1967 as a multiracial, ecumenical group that sought to make faith relevant to political realities. The UCM had been inspired and shaped by an American group of the same name, which operated from 1966 to 1969. This group, also ecumenical, was only possible after Vatican II (1962- 1965).
Steve Biko and SASO The UCM operated on both black and white college campuses, but it gained particular traction at black schools. At black campuses (U. Natal Medical School, Fort Hare, U. North, U. Western Cape, Unizul, U. College for Indians) the UCM could operate with freedoms that NUSAS could not because the UCM was a religious, rather than expressly “political,” group.
Steve Biko and SASO The UCM was also a very groovy group. In 1967 and 1968, UCM meetings and conferences featured “worship happenings,” in which participants were encouraged to “do your own thing.” At the July 1968 UCM conference, 40 black students called for a national black student group to parallel NUSAS.
Steve Biko and SASO Back at Biko’s alma mater of Mariannhill in December 1968, Biko and his peers from the UCM formed the all- black South African Students’ Organisation (SASO). In July 1969, Biko became SASO’s first president, and in July 1970 he became its Publicity Secretary. While SASO first formed as “the custodian of non-white interests,” in 1970 the group began to call its members “black.”
Steve Biko and SASO What did “black” mean in apartheid South Africa? How was it different than “non-white”?
Steve Biko and SASO The SASO policy manifesto of August 1971: “Black” South Africans are “those who are by law or tradition, politically, economically and socially discriminated against as a group in the South African society” (cited in Magaziner, 228).
Steve Biko and SASO Blackness was a political definition.
Steve Biko and SASO What did “Africanness” mean, then?
Steve Biko and SASO Africanness was a humanistic definition: As Biko also wrote in August 1971, “the modern African culture” was a “man- centred society” (cited in Magaziner, 231).
Steve Biko and SASO Do we see shades of the New Left here?
Steve Biko and SASO In its early stages--from 1968 through 1972--this new black South African student movement indeed seemed to resemble the early New Left. As Magaziner points out, early BC was an “existential” movement, concerned about authentic relationships and the cultivation of the self (239).
Steve Biko and SASO From the early 1970s, SASO activists also began very explicitly to borrow from American Black Power advocates. They did so through religious connections-- as the influence of Dr. James Cone, author of the banned but popular Black Theology and Black Power (1969), revealed. In January 1972, the Black Power fist began to appear on SASO publications.
Steve Biko and SASO Steve Biko, “Black Consciousness and the Quest for a True Humanity,” 1973: “Black Consciousness is an attitude of mind and a way of life... The philosophy of Black Consciousness therefore expresses group pride and the determination of the black to rise and attain the envisaged self. Freedom is the ability to define oneself with one’s possibilities held back not by the power of other people over one but by one’s relationship to God and to natural surroundings” (101).
Steve Biko and SASO Black Consciousness as “a way of life”: At the end of 1970, Biko failed out of medical school and commenced study for a law degree by correspondence. Biko also began to run the Black Community Programme (BCP)--self- help and community development programs that shared much with those of the Black Panther Party in American cities--in Durban in 1972.
Steve Biko and SASO In March 1973, Biko and several other SASO leaders were banned to limited “home districts.” From his “home district” in the Eastern Cape, Biko continued his work with BCP, until officials restricted that engagement at the end of 1975. By that time, though, the movement’s influence extended to campuses around the country--also like the New Left, BC went from elite centers of education to engage the masses.
Steve Biko and SASO When, in early 1976, the Department of Bantu Education called for half of all secondary school classes in Soweto to be conducted in Afrikaans, resistance was immediate and concerted. On 16 June, police notoriously opened fire on BC-inspired primary and secondary students marching in protest against the language policy and the broader system of Bantu Education-- leading to bloody riots that left at least 600 people dead in Soweto and to a national schools boycott that stretched into 1977.
Steve Biko and SASO By the South African spring of 1977, a quarter of a million students were on strike around the country and some 600 teachers in Soweto had resigned. Steve Biko was murdered in police custody in September 1977 and SASO was banned the next month. But BC shaped a generation, whose members would continue to fight apartheid through the 1980s and down to the dawn of democracy.
Steve Biko and SASO How did the “global 1960s” shape the Black Consciousness movement and the anti-apartheid movement? And back to our original question: When were “the 1960s” in South Africa?