Free South Africa Movement

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Duration: 1984 - July 1990
Location: Washington, DC, United States

The Free South Africa Movement (FSAM) grew out of a meeting held on Wednesday, November 21, 1984 (Thanksgiving Eve) at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C. between the South African Ambassador to the U.S. and four U.S. anti-apartheid activists: Randall Robinson, Executive Director, TransAfrica; Dr. Mary Frances Berry, Commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; D.C. Congressman Walter Fauntroy; and Georgetown University law professor Eleanor Holmes Norton. The activists went to discuss violations of human rights under apartheid; at the end of the meeting they refused to leave and began a sit-in. Robinson, Berry, and Fauntroy were arrested; Norton was not arrested, as she had stepped out to address the media. People gathered outside and picketed the embassy. The action quickly sparked demonstrations against apartheid at South African consulates and corporations tied to South Africa throughout the United States. TransAfrica played a key role in FSAM, a coalition that involved many people and organizations, including unions. Local branches of FSAM formed in cities across the country. The demonstrations at South African consulates continued over a year, and more than 4,500 people were arrested. On August 12, 1985, the FSAM organized a symbolic funeral march after the South Africa government banned public funerals. In June-July 1990, following the unbanning of the African National Congress and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, FSAM members join the Mandela Welcome Committee to organize an 11-day, seven-city U.S. tour for Nelson Mandela and the ANC to raise awareness of the problems still confronting South Africa. The tour marked the end of the FSAM. (Source: websites accessed July 29, 2010 including A Chronology of the Free South Africa Movement [PDF], Researched by Alhaji Conteh, TransAfrica Forum Intern, TransAfrica Forum; The Free South African Movement by Sylvia Hill; 25th Anniversary of Free South Africa Movement: Solidarity Works by James Parks, Dec 16, 2009; and Free South Africa Movement march, Walter P. Reuther Library)