Interview with Walter Sisulu

by Walter Sisulu (interviewee), George M. Houser (interviewer)
Orlando, South Africa
September 1954
Duration: 16:23
Type: Interview
Coverage in Africa: South Africa
Coverage outside Africa: United Kingdom
Language: English
Walter Sisulu was a founder of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League in 1944. He served as secretary general of the ANC from 1949 to 1954, when he was banned by the apartheid government from being a member of the ANC. While secretary general, he effectively ran the day-to-day operations of the ANC. He served on the Joint Planning Council for the Campaign of Defiance Against Unjust Laws which began in 1952. Houser, who was secretary of American for South Africa Resistance, had correspondence with Sisulu at this time. In December 1956, Sisulu was arrested and was one of the defendants in the Treason Trial, finally being acquitted in March 1961. He was jailed during the 1960 State of Emergency. In March 1963, he was convicted of furthering the aims of the ANC, which had been banned in 1960, and was sentenced to six years in jail. In April 1963, while out on bail appealing his conviction, he went underground. He was arrested on July 11, 1963 when police raided the Umkomto We Sizwe High Command at Rivonia. He was tried and convicted with Nelson Mandela and six others; he was sentenced to life imprisonment and sent to Robben Island. He was released from prison on October 15, 1989. On February 2, 1990 the ANC was unbanned and he was elected Deputy President at the ANC national conference in July, 1991. This interview was conducted in September 1954 by George M. Houser, a founder of the American Committee on Africa. This was the only time Houser was able to get into South Africa until 1991. Between 1995 and 1997, at Sisulu's request, George Houser and Herbert Shore conducted more than 30 hours of taped interviews with him. The result was a book I Will Go Singing: Walter Sisulu speaks of His Life and the Struggle for Freedom in Southern Africa, In conversation with George M. Houser and Herbert Shore (Cape Town: Robben Island Museum, 1991). Biographical material sources: From Protest to Challenge, Volume 4 by Gail M. Gerhart and Thomas Karis, No One Can Stop the Rain by George M. Houser, and personal communication with Houser.

Audio by permission of George M. Houser and the Sisulu family. Photo by permission of George M. Houser.
Collection: Private collection of George M. Houser