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Museum of London Collaborates with Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives Committee on Exhibition
1970 white persons only area UN c. Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives. An area designated for ‘white persons only’ in Capetown, 1970. A United Nations photograph by Kay Muldoon.

LONDON.- The Museum of London opens a brand new display marking the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, in partnership with the Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives Committee. The display examines a powerful and creative campaigning history in support of the people of southern Africa which culminated in the 1994 inauguration of Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first democratically elected president. As an example of the power of collective action, this history still has great relevance today.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement was the largest and most potent international solidarity movement in British history, one which bridged political divides and involved ordinary people from many backgrounds. The display explores the versatility and creativity of its most significant campaigns, including the decades-long consumer boycott; the high-profile demonstrations against touring South African rugby and cricket teams; the call for an end to arms trade with South Africa; and the many campaigns in support of political prisoners and against apartheid executions. The display also underlines the central importance of London as both the city where the Anti-Apartheid Movement was founded and where many of its campaigns were based, and the capital of a country which was inextricably linked with apartheid South Africa.

Lord Hughes of Woodside, Labour MP and previous Chair of the Anti-Apartheid Movement comments, ‘This display and partnership with Museum of London and the Bodleian Library reflects the ethos of collaboration demonstrated by the Anti-Apartheid Movement throughout its history. Forward to Freedom is an expressive and thoughtful beginning to its 50th anniversary celebrations and a testament to its work and the passion and immense perseverance of its supporters in campaigning for equality in southern Africa. Today, its work is being carried on by its successor organisation, Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA).’

Annette Day, Senior Curator at Museum of London, was keen that the display show the extraordinary imagination and commitment of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in its work to support the struggle against the injustice and brutality of the apartheid government. She comments, ‘London has a long history as a centre and a national and international stage for protest. The Anti-Apartheid Movement and all those who supported its work and attended its demonstrations occupy an important and vivid chapter in that history’.

The display includes:

- More than 30 striking posters from key campaigns.

- An array of leaflets, stickers, badges, mugs, T-shirts and letters, including the first leaflet distributed after the Boycott Movement (later the Anti-Apartheid Movement) was formed in 1959; campaign material spanning almost four decades, including a leaflet in support of Nelson Mandela and his colleagues during their trial in 1963-4; letters from then Prime Ministers James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher; and even some anti-apartheid wrapping paper.

- Testimony from some of the key individuals involved in the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

- News footage of anti-apartheid demonstrations and extracts from the 1988 Nelson Mandela 70th birthday tribute which was broadcast to 600 million people in 67 countries.

- Photographs depicting apartheid and resistance in South Africa as well as demonstrations, rallies, vigils and other anti-apartheid activities in Britain, with London centre-stage.

Jack Lohman, Director, Museum of London comments, ‘This remarkable display showcases the work of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and provides a timely example of the influence that grassroots activism can achieve. The display reflects some of the themes that will be picked up in our new galleries of Modern London, launching in 2010. There are several objects that look specifically at Race and Rights in the new space, including the manifesto for the Universal Coloured People’s Association formed by Nigerian playwright Obi Egbuna in 1967 and a leaflet from the Commission for Racial Equality in 1976 with a slogan ‘Know your rights’. This display also reflects Museum of London’s continuing relationship with the varied organisations and people who play a vital part in London’s history”.

Museum of London | Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives Committee | Nelson Mandela | Lord Hughes of Woodside | James Callaghan | Margaret Thatcher; |

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