On 26 June 1959, over five hundred people attended a meeting at the Holborn Hall, London in order to launch an economic boycott against South Africa. Speakers included Julius Nyerere, future President of Tanzania and long-time fighter against apartheid, K.Chiume, press secretary of the Nyasaland African Congress, Tennyson Makiwane and Vella Pillay of South Africa and the redoubtable Rev. Michael Scott; Trevor Huddleston was in the Chair. 'It was an enthusiastic meeting', recorded the July issue of the Transvaal Indian Congress Bulletin, 'and a good indication of the tremendous support for our struggle against apartheid.' 'The South African Government is fighting against history and they are bound to lose. We know that the liberation struggle will triumph in South Africa. If you have confidence then we are going to win!' declared Nyerere.*
Exactly 40 years later, on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 June 1999, the moment of the Anti-Apartheid Movement's birth was celebrated in a symposium and exhibition recording the highlights of its history. The welcome from the South African High Commissioner, Cheryl Carolus, who graciously hosted the event at South Africa House in Trafalgar Square, London, so long the scene of anti-apartheid demonstrations, was a potent symbol of the success of the liberation struggle in which the AAM played so notable a part.
The papers in this report bring together the recollections and reflections of participants in the AAM and contributions from academics, archivists and film-makers concerned with the history of the liberation struggle in South Africa and the anti-apartheid movement it inspired throughout the world. As Lord Hughes remarks in the pages that follow, there was no intention of providing a comprehensive history of the movement in all its ramifications, in the UK and internationally. On the Sunday following the Symposium a smaller round-table international consultation was held at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, to discuss how to locate and make accessible the records of organisations who took part in the anti-apartheid struggle world-wide .
The collection captures only some of the spirit of excitement and enthusiasm of the weekend as old friends recalled their exploits and a new generation was stimulated to ask fresh questions about the wider meaning of a movement which entered the hearts and minds of so many people, and which was perhaps one of the first to insist successfully in international fora that human rights are more important than national sovereignty. Nevertheless it marks an important step in achieving the brief of the AAM Archive Committee - to encourage the preservation of the records of the movement, written and oral, in order to stimulate discussion and research on its role and impact and make them more accessible.
* I am very grateful to Mr E S Reddy for giving me a copy of this document at the Symposium.