For Educators: Anti-Apartheid Movement



The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) played a major role in the dismantling of the apartheid system in South Africa. Representative Ronald V. Dellums (D-CA) introduced the CBC’s first bill concerning apartheid in 1972. Over the next 14 years, CBC members sponsored more than 15 bills concerning apartheid. Members urged the United States government to withdraw financial support from the South African government. The CBC also encouraged American universities and corporations to divest from doing business with South Africa.

Through the use of documents and images provided on the website as well as suggested activities and readings, students will explore the apartheid government in South Africa and African Americans’ response to U.S. Foreign Policies through the legislative actions of the CBC.

Grade Level: 8-12

Essential Question: Using economic sanctions, how effective is the United States government’s influence in changing the practices of foreign governments that violate the human rights of its citizens?

Learning Objectives

Using documents, images, and articles from the Avoice Web site, students will:

Learn about the system of apartheid as it was practiced in South Africa;
Gain an understanding of the world view of such governmental practices and actions taken to change them; and
Increase their knowledge and understanding of the Congressional Black Caucus’ role in influencing United States foreign policies.
National Learning Standards

World History

Era 9: The 20th Century Since 1945: Promises and Paradoxes

Standard 2C: The student understands how liberal democracy, market economies, and human rights movements have reshaped political and social life.

Explain the dismantling of the apartheid system in South Africa and the winning of political rights by the black majority.

Select an activity below to view full activity guidelines:

Documents, Resources and Worksheets Used in Anti-Apartheid Movement Lesson Unit

Activity 1: What is Apartheid?

Activity 2: Where is South Africa?

Activity 3: King and Mandela: Leaders in the Struggle and Resistance to Racial Discrimination

Activity 4: Galvanizing Public Support against Apartheid in South Africa: Economic Sanctions and the Congressional Black Caucus

Activity 5: Sanctions against South Africa

Activity 6: The End of Apartheid

Current world news newspapers, magazines, or journals

Introductory Essay: The Anti-Apartheid Movement and the Congressional Black Caucus

Apartheid means separateness. Apartheid was a system of legal racial segregation enforced by the South African National Party government between 1948 and 1994. This system created a society of enormous repression for black South Africans.

These policies of racial separation began long before 1948. In 1910, a series of laws were introduced to limit the rights of the black majority. Laws like the Mines and Works Act of 1911, limited the kind of jobs that black workers could have, reducing them to exclusively doing menial work, while securing the better job opportunities for white workers. Laws were also introduced to restrict land ownership and use by the black majority. The Native Land Act of 1913 set aside less than 10% of South African territory as reservations for black people and barred them from buying land outside these areas.

Policies like these also limited the political influence of black South Africans by depriving them of the right to vote or to protest unfair labor practices. Despite these political, economic, and social challenges, groups like the African National Congress (ANC) formed to stage resistance and liberation movements to free black South Africans from these atrocities. The conflicts intensified and, out of fear, white South Africans rallied great support behind the National Party to win the 1948 election in South Africa, thus ensuring the opportunity to put into place an even greater repressive government against the majority black population.

The National Party immediately passed a series of new laws that established the separation of races and suppressed political dissent. In 1950, the Population Registration Act was created to establish racial classifications based on skin color and ethnic backgrounds. Discriminatory laws were also established to hinder the voting process, target black businesses and property owners, as well as continue removing and resettling black South Africans on reservations. The labor bureau and trade unions also discriminated against black workers and thus weakened the urban African working class.

The anti-apartheid movement was spearheaded by the black community in the United States. As leaders of this community, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was instrumental in organizing and supporting activities that brought national and global attention to the racist and inhumane treatment of blacks in South Africa. The CBC’s efforts to raise awareness about South Africa’s apartheid system ultimately led to the passage of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986.

Representative Ronald V. Dellums (D-CA) introduced the CBC’s first bill concerning apartheid in 1972. Over the next 14 years, CBC members sponsored more than 15 bills concerning apartheid. Members sponsored hearings, organized rallies, and participated in protests in Washington D.C., as well as in their home districts. Their efforts, in conjunction with the efforts of community activists, students and other organizations, brought widespread attention to the racist and inhumane treatment of blacks in South Africa.

Prior to 1986, CBC members, along with students and other community activists, brought widespread attention to South Africa through a number of rallies and protests in Washington, D.C. and their home districts. The CBC was also involved in the establishment of TransAfrica in 1977. TransAfrica is a foreign policy advocacy organization designed to increase awareness of issues concerning Africa and the Caribbean. TransAfrica, with the support of the CBC and several other grassroots organizations, led the movement to dissociate from South Africa. As a result of these efforts, scores of universities and businesses withdrew investment dollars from South Africa.

In 1984, in the face of escalating violence and repression in South Africa and the refusal of the Reagan administration to take measures against the Botha regime, a group of Washington-based anti-apartheid and civil rights leaders launched the Free South Africa Movement. Randall Robinson, then director of TransAfrica, along with Mary Frances Berry, U.S. Delegate and CBC Member Walter Fauntroy, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, arranged a meeting with the South African ambassador. During that meeting, Norton left to call the media to announce that the other three would not leave the embassy until their demands—that the South African government release all political prisoners immediately and dismantle apartheid—were met. The media and supporters were there to capture the removal of Robinson, Fauntroy, and Berry in handcuffs, and the daily protests outside the embassy began. The protests spread from the embassy in Washington, D.C., to South African consulates and other symbols of the South African government around the United States. Over the next two years, at least 6,000 people would be arrested at embassy and consulate protests including major figures from the civil rights movement, members of Congress and other political figures, and many artists and entertainers.

Additional recommended readings for teachers and students:

Downing, David. Apartheid in South Africa (Witness to History). Heinemann: Chicago, 2004. (Non-Fiction)

Connolly, Sean. Apartheid in South Africa (Troubled World). Heinemann Library: Chicago, 2001. (Non-Fiction)

Activity 1: What is Apartheid?


Documents Needed:

Materials Needed:

Large sheets of easel pad paper and markers
Computer with Internet access
Letter-sized paper and pencils for each student

Teacher Tip


Share with the students the introductory essay about what apartheid is and the role that the Congressional Black Caucus played in changing this practice in South Africa. This can be an in-class reading or an assignment to be discussed in the next class session.

Discussion and Chart Making:
Encourage the students to make a large chart listing the key elements of the South African apartheid government and identify which portion of the population was most affected by it. Display the chart in the classroom for reference during other activities recommended in this lesson.

Extended Activity: South Africa Student Movement: The Soweto Massacre, 1976

To connect the students to stories or narratives of real people who experienced South Africa’s apartheid first-hand, this activity highlights South African youths’ efforts to end unfair educational practices in their schools. The South African Student Movement’s march on Soweto was the beginning of the anti-apartheid movement.

Divide the students into small groups of 3-4 students. Distribute the paper and pencils to each student. Tell the students that they will be doing online research about the South African students’ participation in the Anti-Apartheid Movement for education freedom and civil rights.

Begin the activity by sharing with your students the following excerpt from the Guardian, a British newspaper about the children of Soweto’s protesting for their right to learn in their native language. Write the quote on a large sheet of easel paper and it place on the wall for the students to read.

“On the morning of June 16, 1976, a crowd of 10,000 black students gathered in the South African township of Soweto. They were demonstrating against a decree from the apartheid government that all pupils must learn Afrikaans in school. The protest was peaceful, but police opened fire, and at least 566 people were killed in the events that followed. The massacre brought the brutality of the racist regime to the attention of the world – and, some say, marked the beginning of the end for apartheid.”

After reading the quote with your students, tell them they are going to review a web source that will provide them additional information about the student march in Soweto. Direct them to view the South African History Online page on the Soweto Uprising, June 16, 1976, for detailed, day-by-day information about what happened during the uprising. With their team members they will review the web site listed below and gather additional facts about the massacre. Have each team prepare a one page report about the incident by responding to the following questions:

Guiding questions for the students’ research:

Why did the children organize the protest?
What happened to the children during the protest?
Did the children’s demonstration ultimately achieve their goal?
How did other countries react to this incident?
If you could talk to one of the children who survived the protests, what would you ask them about their life in South Africa in 1976?

Allow the students time to complete their research. Conclude the activity with each team presenting a fact or information they learned about the protest.

Role Playing/Writing:
End this activity by having your students pretend they have traveled to South Africa in 1976 to interview the children who helped to bring change in Soweto. The students can present their information as a news anchor on the Nightly News or CNN or be a news reporter for a newspaper and prepare a headline news article.

To start their research, share with the students the following questions, in addition to a copy of the Congressional Record of House Joint Resolution 317, Soweto Remembrance Day Resolution:

What do you expect to see?
What do you hope to learn from the children?
How do you think you would have been received as an American in their country?
How do you think the Congressional Black Caucus responded to this tragic event as well as America at-large?
Extended Activity: Compare and Contrast the Soweto Student Protest 1976 and the Birmingham, Alabama Children’s Crusade March 1963

This activity is designed to compliment your study about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and other Human Rights Movements throughout the world. In 1963, more than 1000 students gathered to march in Birmingham for civil rights in one of the most racially divided cities in the U.S. To supplement the number of volunteer adults, organizers recruited children for what became known as the Children’s Crusade. Children who participated ranged from 6 to 18. In an attempt to curtail the demonstration, the Birmingham Police Department used high pressure water hoses and police dogs on the children and bystanders. Media coverage of this event increased national attention on racial segregation in the South.

Screen the following movies for a comparative look at the struggles of black children in the U.S. and in South Africa for freedom and civil rights. The movies may be obtained through Netflix and Blockbuster Films. As a culminating activity, provide your students with large sheets of easel pad paper and have the students create “compare and contrast” charts of the protests highlighting what actions brought attention to the children’s struggles and the ultimate achievement of freedom and civil rights for all.

Mighty Times: The Children’s March (2004) (40 minutes). HBO Production. This film highlights the May 2, 1963 Children’s March in Birmingham Alabama.

Sarafina (1992) (117 minutes). Buena Vista Home Entertainment. This film tells the story about the struggle of South African school children for survival and freedom against apartheid.

Activity 2: Where is South Africa?


Materials Needed:

Maps of Africa (pdf) and South Africa (pdf)
Brochures from South Africa Embassy or travel agencies about the country
Computers for research
5-6 Poster boards (one for each group)

Distribute copies of the map of the continent of Africa and a map of South Africa to each student. With the students, identify where South Africa is located on the continent of Africa. Next, look at the map of South Africa. Ask the students to name what cities, regions, geographic elements like oceans, rivers, etc. and neighboring countries that they see on the map.

Research: Fact Finding about South Africa

Following the map study activity, arrange the students in small groups and share with them the brochures and other travel information you could gather about South Africa. Assign each group a fact to research using the brochures or the Internet. For example:

Group 1 – Population
Group 2 – Natural Resources
Group 3 – Current Leader(s) of the country
Group 4 – Economic Wealth of the country and who benefits the most from it
Group 5 – Education and Health

Students can organize their findings with the research organizer worksheet. Encourage the students to use the Internet for additional information. Sources for student research:

Compare and Contrast:
After the students have completed their fact finding of South Africa today, ask them to compare the country’s social, political and economic status of today versus what it was like from 1960 to 1994. South Africa History Online is a rich resource of information to support the students’ comparative study. Direct the students to focus on the Politics and Governance page. It features information about South Africa political events, legislation, freedom movements, the people, and timelines of events that occurred from the 1920s to 1994.

Poster and Oral Presentation: South Africa Past and Present:
Provide poster board, glue and scissors for each group. Ask the students to create a poster display illustrating the results of their research. Encourage them to use the travel brochures and images from the Web to create a poster display. Following the completion of their research, invite each team to give an oral presentation about what they have learned and share their poster display.

Activity 3: King and Mandela: Leaders in the Struggle and Resistance to Racial Discrimination


Documents Needed:

Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. 1995. Chapter 11: Freedom
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson. Chapter 8: The Violence of Desperate Men, and Chapter 20: March on Washington

Materials Needed:


Compare and Contrast Reading Activity:
Read with your students, the excerpts from the autobiographies of King and Mandela.

Following the readings, distribute to each student a copy of the worksheet. Using the worksheet as a guide, ask the students to list comparisons of Blacks’ struggles and resistance to racial discrimination in South Africa and the United States.

Group Discussion Question:
Nelson Mandela used his time in prison to imagine what life could be like in South Africa after apartheid had been abolished. He envisioned a peaceful, egalitarian society and reconciliation between the races. Ask the students to consider the extent to which Mandela’s vision in South Africa and King’s vision in the United States exist today?

Teacher Tip

Extended Activity: Role Playing

In 1992, Mandela was honored with a Nobel Peace Prize. Ask the students to do a reenactment of Mr. Mandela receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Their task is to prepare a speech to introduce Mr. Mandela by not only telling the story of his life, but also why he deserves such an honor.

Allow the students to be creative in their presentation using PowerPoint presentations, Spoken Word and poetry, storytelling or through song and music. Share with the students the following web sites for reference in preparing their presentations.

Activity 4: Galvanizing Public Support against Apartheid in South Africa: Economic Sanctions and the Congressional Black Caucus


Documents Needed:

Materials Needed:

Easel pad paper and markers
Computer with Internet access

Print out the Avoice Virtual Library Anti-Apartheid Legislation page and provide a copy of the web page and the other documents for each student. Allow the students time to review the copies. To focus their study of the documents, share with them a copy of the Photograph and Document Analysis Worksheets (pdf) from the National Archives.

After the students have reviewed the documents, lead them in a whole class discussion about bans and conditions discussed in the resolution and Mr. Gray’s speech before the House of Representatives. Ask the students the following questions:

Do you think that proposing sanctions against South Africa was a necessary next step to end racial discrimination?
Would you support economic sanctioning against other countries that practice violation of its citizens’ human rights? Why?

Assign a student to record remarks on easel pad sheets to be posted in the classroom.

Creative Writing:
Return the students’ attention to the images. Ask them to review the images again, but for this exercise have them to write a short story about what is happening in one of the images. Encourage the students to incorporate facts learned during classroom discussions.

Activity 5: Sanctions against South Africa


Documents Needed:

Materials Needed:


Divide students into smaller groups. Give each group one of the documents and a worksheet. Allow the students time to read and record what they learn about the document and the information it provides.

Debate and Persuasive Writing:
Ask the students to prepare an opinion editorial (op-ed) expressing their views on economic sanctions. Explain to the students that American citizens disagreed on the morality and effectiveness of economic sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid government. Based on what they learned from the documents, ask the students to consider what bans and/or sanctions could cause concern and why? (i.e. investment firms, banks, manufacturing companies, etc.).

Extended Activity: Design a Flyer Seeking Support for Sanctions

For those students interested in current political issues about international sanctions, have them create a flyer seeking support to impose sanctions. Encourage them to incorporate images and drawings to illustrate their demands. Invite the students to present their flyer to the class and create a classroom display of the flyers.

Activity 6: The End of Apartheid


Documents Needed:

Current world news newspapers, magazines, or journals

Materials Needed:

Computers with Internet access

Discussion Questions and Research:
To determine if the end of apartheid proved to be beneficial for the people of South Africa, explore with the students current events about daily life in this post-apartheid society. What are the visions of the country’s leadership? How stable is the economy? If it is strong, who is benefiting from it? Did the health and housing issues improve for most people? Do black children have greater access to education? How is apartheid’s effect still being felt today in South Africa?

To answer these questions and more, ask the students to read their local newspapers and online newspapers like the:

Sunday Times, national newspaper published in Johannesburg, a Web-based magazine
Cape Argus, Cape Town afternoon paper

Based on their research, encourage the students to present evidence to support their opinion on whether ending apartheid was good or not good for the country and global relations.

Extended Activity

Discussion Question:
What countries does the United States government currently maintain economic sanctions against (Iran, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, Burma, Angola, etc.)? To respond to this question, encourage the students to visit the library or search the Internet to find the rules and effect of sanctions on these countries. For information, go to the Office of Foreign Assets, Department of the Treasury and Amnesty International’s Human Rights websites.


Activist: an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, i.e. political cause.

Apartheid: a social policy or racial segregation involving political and economic and legal discrimination against people who are not white; the former official policy in South Africa.

Civil Rights: related to a political movement, especially during the 1950s and 1960s, devoted to securing equal opportunity and treatment for members of minority groups.

Conflict: an open fight, battle, or struggle between two opposing groups.

Human Rights: the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. Often held to include the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law.

Oppression: the practice of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner.

Protest: to publicly display opposition to something.

Sanctions: a coercive measure adopted usually by a nation or several nations acting together against a nation violating human rights or international law.

Unit Resources

Avoice Exhibit

Visit the Avoice exhibit on the Anti-Apartheid Movement.


Anti-Apartheid Movement Timeline


Clark, Nancy L. South Africa: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid. Pearson Education Publishing: Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2004.

Connolly, Sean. Apartheid in South Africa (Troubled World). Heinemann: Chicago, 2001.

Downing, David. Apartheid in South Africa (Witness to History). Heinemann: Chicago, 2004.

Mandela, Nelson. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Little, Brown, and Company: Boston, MA, 1995.

Martin, Michael J. Apartheid in South Africa. Gale Publishing: Florence, KY, 2006.

Mathabane, Mark. Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa. Simon and Schuster Publishing: New York, NY, 1998.

Mayer, Robert. When the Children Marched: The Birmingham Civil Rights Movement. Enslow Publishers: Berkeley Heights, NJ, 2008.

Naidoo, Beverly. Out of Bounds: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope. HarperCollins Publishers: New York, NY, 2003.

Rochelle, Belinda. Witnesses to Freedom: Young People Who Fought for Civil Rights. Lodestar Books: 1993.

Schermbrucker, Reviva. Lucky Fish. Jacana Media: Johannesburg, South Africa, 2005.

Web Resources

Avoice: African American Voice in Congress

CIA World Fact Book

Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF)

History of Education in South Africa: Soweto Uprising, June 16, 1976

South African History Online

U.S. State Department – Background Notes

Film Resources

Mighty Times: The Children’s March. 2004 (40 minutes). HBO Family Movie.
This film tells the story of the over 1000 children who in 1963 marched in Birmingham, Alabama, one of the most racially divided cities in the US, for civil rights. The three day protest became known as the Children’s Crusade.

Sarafina. 1992 (117 minutes). Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
This film tells the story about the struggle of South African school children for survival and freedom against apartheid.


The Anti-Apartheid Movement lesson unit was created through the combined efforts of:

Adrena Ifill, Project Director, Avoice, CBCF Virtual Library Project
Alison Kootstra, Project Coordinator, Avoice, CBCF Virtual Library Project
R. Maria Marable-Bunch, Education Consultant

This lesson unit was reviewed by the following educators:

Dr. Lynne Long, Professional Development and Curriculum Design, Washington, DC
Dianne Moore-Williams, Mentor Teacher, Washington, DC
Tanya Brown Merriman, Museum Educator and Assistant Professor, Los Angeles, CA
Tracey Mina, Preschool Educator, Brooklyn, NY

This project was made possible by the generous support of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Dell Inc. and The University of Texas at Austin.

Thank you for visiting the Avoice online project. This website is being continuously updated with new exhibits, multimedia, and much more.