A Moral Imperative: The Role of American Black Churches in International Anti-Apartheid Activism

Phyllis E. Slade

Advisor: Benedict Carton, PhD, African and African American Studies Program

Committee Members: Yevette Richards Jordan, Spencer Crew, Robert E. Edgar

Research Hall, #162
April 24, 2015, 11:00 AM to 09:00 AM


In the twentieth century Americans bore witness to the rise of harsh white supremacy in South Africa after the Afrikaner National Party instituted apartheid in 1948. The draconian Pretoria government sought to control the majority black population through violent enforcement of segregationist laws. As apartheid took root, US anticolonial organizations--comprised of labor union members, church groups, and civil rights advocates--increasingly protested racial injustice in South Africa. These organizations, in solidarity with black South Africans, drove the international fight against apartheid. A Moral Imperative focuses on four successive anticolonial organizations in the United States, which fiercely challenged white supremacy in South Africa: the Council on African Affairs (CAA), the American Committee on Africa (ACOA), TransAfrica’s Free South Africa Movement (FSAM), and the Southern Africa Support Project (SASP). Black church people in America effectively shaped the strategies of these four organizations. Yet the major scholarship on transnational anti-apartheid activism has overlooked their vital contributions, particularly their ideologies of radical pacifism and black power which turned the anti-apartheid struggle into a global civil rights crusade.