Boston Coalition for the Liberation of Southern Africa

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All (51) | Documents (45) | Photographs (1) | Posters (4) | T-Shirts (1)

Alternate Names: Southern Africa Solidarity Committee
Duration: 1976 - mid-1980s
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Newsletter: BCLSA Newsletter


The Boston Coalition for the Liberation of Southern Africa (BCLSA) was a community organization formed just after the 1976 Soweto Uprising in South Africa. The Southern Africa Solidarity Committee (SASC) was a precursor to BCLSA formed sometime before the BCLSA, about 1975. BCLSA brought together individual activists and smaller organizations that were already doing political work around Southern African issues. Its purpose was to educate the local population about the nature of the white-minority regimes, oppose any government or corporate support for those regimes, and to support the liberation movements in Southern Africa. BCLSA paid attention to local racism issues and made connections between local and international oppression. For example, one of its most successful campaigns involved organizing against the First National Bank of Boston's loans to the South African Government at the same time that the FNBB was redlining the local black community. It also opposed the bank’s sale of the Krugerrand, a South African gold coin. BCLSA worked with larger coalitions, including help with the successful divestment campaigns concerning the city of Cambridge and the State of Massachusetts. BCLSA was initially established with the support of the local African National Congress of South Africa group, and was specifically pro-ANC for a short while. This specific ANC orientation was later dropped to facilitate work with all the South African movements. BCLSA supported MPLA in Angola and did not take sides between ZANU and ZAPU in Zimbabwe. One innovative aspect of the work was the group's use of locally produced slideshows. Numerous presentations were made to organize around the First National Bank of Boston's racist practices, and to support Winnie Mandela and South African women’s rights. BCLSA organized rallies, benefit concerts, clothing drives for refugees, and hosted numerous speakers and films. In 1980 it helped form MassDivest, which led the campaign to divest the state pension from companies doing business in South Africa. In January 1983 the legislature passed a comprehensive divestment bill that became a model for other sates. In 1982 it changed its name to the Boston Committee for the Liberation of Southern Africa when member realized that it was no longer a coalition of groups. BCLSA stopped meeting as a separate organization in the mid-1980s and various members joined with other activities by other groups in the Boston area, primarily the Fund for a Free South Africa (FreeSA, founded by BCLSA member Themba Vilakazi) and TransAfrica. (Source: Richard Clapp, Barbara Brown and Al Kagan, all former members of BCLSA; and A Brief History of the Boston Coalition for the Liberation of Southern Africa by Richard Clapp, available on this website.)

Organizational Archive


Title: Boston Coalition for the Liberation of Southern Africa papers
Time Span: mid-1970s - mid-1990s
Media: 1 box
Description: In 1982 it changed its name to the Boston Committee for the Liberation of Southern Africa. The collection includes material of other Massachusetts organization including after BCLSA ceased operating. The anti-apartheid activists who eventually formed BCLSA came from groups such as the Africa Research Group, whose Boston members was active in the early 1970s, and the Southern Africa Solidarity Committee, which organized on the Harvard-Radcliffe campus in the mid-1970s. The collection includes material from other Boston area organizations including the Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement which drew attention to the Polaroid camera systems being used in the pass system in South Africa, the Gulf Boycott Coalition which between 1972-1975 was active in promoting the boycott of Gulf gasoline because of the company's support for the Portuguese colonial regime in Angola, the Southern Africa Solidarity Coalition, the Fund for a Free South Africa (FreeSA) and Mass Divest which led the successful campaign for state divestment. FreeSA continued to do fund-raising events and supported non-governmental organizations active in South Africa in the late 1980s. The archive includes other activities that followed the institution of U.S. sanctions in the 1980s included meetings of health care professionals and formation of a Boston chapter of the Committee for Health in South Africa (CHISA), the mobilization of support for Nelson Mandela's visit to Boston in 1990, and the development of a 'sister state' agreement between Massachusetts and the Eastern Cape in the mid-1990s. This collection forms part of the African Activist Archive collections. Papers collected and donated by Richard Clapp and Barbara Brown (members of BCLSA).
Housed At: Michigan State University Library, Special Collections
Location: 100 Library, East Lansing, MI 48824, United States
Catalog/Finding Aid: view
Phone: 517-353-8700
Related Website: http://www.lib.msu.edu/spc/index/