Object of the Month – January 2014

January 2014 - Anti-Apartheid Movement Congleton and District Group banner (loan from the Working Class Movement Library), 1970s or 1980s

Anti-Apartheid Movement banner‘It is unlawful for a white person and a non-white person to drink a cup of tea together in a tea room anywhere in South Africa, unless they have obtained a permit to do so.’ This is Apartheid pamphlet.

As a black South African you could not share a bus, the same area of beach, or even use the same hospital as a white person.  Apartheid separated black and white people in South Africa from 1950 until 1994.  It finally came to an end with the release and election of Nelson Mandela (1918-2013).  His death last year has brought tribute from many who saw him as the father of modern South Africa.

The campaign against Apartheid in Britain started with the Boycott Movement set up in 1959.  The aim of the movement was to put pressure on South Africa by not buying South African goods.  The movement was supported by many students, trade unions and politicians including Labour Party Leader Hugh Gaitskell, Liberal MP Jeremy Thorpe, Conservative peer John Grigg, and Tennyson Makiwane of the African National Congress (ANC).

In 1960, 69 unarmed protesters were shot and killed by South African police.  The slaughter became known as the Sharpville Massacre.  After Sharpville, the Boycott Movement changed to the Anti-Apartheid Movement which set about campaigning for the end of Apartheid, for action against the South African government and for the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners held by the government.  The picture below shows a number of MPs campaigning for Mandela’s release on his 60th birthday in 1978.

Anti-Apartheid Demonstration 1978Anti-Apartheid groups formed all over the United Kingdom.  This particular banner is from the Congleton branch.  The clasped black and white hands symbolise unity between black and white people.  The symbol on the left is the Chinese yin-yang symbol adapted for use as the Anti-Apartheid Movement logo.  The banner uses the same colours as the African National Congress flag of black, gold and green; representing black people, mineral wealth and the land of South Africa respectively.

This banner has been kindly loaned by the Working Class Movement Library.  You can see it on display in our main galleries from Saturday 18 January 2014.