[Dear Dr. Duderstadt, We are writing to you on behalf of the Free South Africa Coordinating Committee and ...]
by Barbara Ransby, Pam Nadasen, Ella Baker - Nelson Mandela Center for Anti-Racist Education
Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
June 5, 1990
The letter to the president of the University of Michigan critiques the university’s plans to offer Nelson Mandela an honorary degree. The letter, written on behalf of the Free South Africa Coordinating Committee (FSACC) and the Advisory Board of the Ella Baker - Nelson Mandela Center for Anti-Racist Education, points out that the initial decision to offer Mandela an honorary degree in 1987 was largely a result of the effort and determination of a core of committed student activists in the FSACC and later the United Coalition Against Racism (UCAR). These student activists circulated petitions, rallied, lobbied the Board of Regents, solicited letters of support from around country, and on two occasions, occupied the administration building demanding that the University of Michigan honor Nelson Mandela. In May of 1986, the University flatly refused to honor Mandela. Now, when Mandela is being heralded the world over for his selfless defiance of apartheid and as the edifices of the current South African regime are on the verge of crumbling, Mandela apparently has many new-found friends. Many institutions and individuals who are now eager to embrace and honor Mr. Mandela were either silent about apartheid or were steadfastly on the wrong side of the issue only a few short years ago. The letter says, given the pivotal role of student anti-apartheid activists have played in the campaign to honor Mandela, they should be integrally involved in any plans to bestow these honors upon Mandela. The letter reports that the African National Congress and members of the Detroit Mandela Reception Committee share these concerns. People sent copies of the letter include Larry Simmons, Detroit Mandela Reception Committee and Mayor's Office, City of Detroit; David Ndaba, African National Congress; Paquetta Palmer, Detroit Mandela Reception Committee; Akua Budu Watkins, National Mandela Reception Committee; Victor Mashabela, African National Congress United Nations Observer Mission, New York City; Charles Moody, Vice Provost for Minority Affairs, University of Michigan; Walter Harrison, University of Michigan Administration; Thomas C. Holt, University of Chicago; and Hector Delgado, former chair of FSACC Mandela Committee. The letter also discusses Thabi Nyide Ndaba, Congressman George Crockett, and freedom fighters.
Used by permission of Premilla Nadasen, a former member of the Free South Africa Coordinating Committee and of the United Coalition Against Racism.
Collection: Private collection of Paquetta Palmer