Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

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Alternate Names: Southern Africa Project
Duration: 1963 - current (Africa work 1967 - 1994)
Location: Washington, DC, United States

Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination in the United States. The Committee's major objective is to use the skills and resources of the bar to obtain equal opportunity for minorities by addressing factors that contribute to racial justice and economic opportunity. The Lawyers' Committee's primary focus is to represent the interest of African Americans in particular, other racial and ethnic minorities, and other victims of discrimination, where doing so can help to secure justice for all racial and ethnic minorities. In 1967 and 1968 the Committee began its work on South Africa much of which was done by Peter Connell was deputy director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. In 1973 Douglas Wachholz was hired as the first director of the Africa Legal Assistance Project, the name of which was later changed to the Southern Africa Project (SAP). SAP financed and helped direct the defense of thousands of political prisoners in southern Africa, supported lawyers in their challenges to apartheid laws, and helped raise the consciousness of policymakers in the U.S. Congress and other branches of government about human rights issues in the region. SAP did work on to include Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). The directors of SAP were Douglas Wachholz (1973-1975), Michael Peay, Millard W. Arnold and Gay McDougall (1980-1994). Under the leadership of Gay McDougall, SAP also made a major contribution to the liberation of Namibia. SAP founded the Commission for Independence of Namibia, a bipartisan group of 31 distinguished Americans who monitored the yearlong, U.N.-mandated process leading to independence. (Source: Douglas Wachholz; Gay McDougall; the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law website including The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law 1963-2003 by Charles T. Lester, Jr.; and Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law documents on this website.)

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Related Archive
Title: Gay J. McDougall South Africa and Namibia Papers
Time Span: Mostly 1980 - 1994
Media: correspondence, memoranda, photographs, videos, ephemera such as election ballots, original local news coverage, and Ms. McDougall's diaries from trips to South Africa, Namibia and the Frontline States; publications by South African organizations including books, reports and briefing papers
Description: Gay J. McDougall South Africa and Namibia Papers and the records of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Southern Africa Project. McDougall served as the Director of the Southern Africa Project for 14 years and was the only American to be appointed to the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC). The McDougall papers contain unique documentation of the activities and decisions of the IEC from the perspective of a member of the Commission and reveal a day-by-day detailed picture of the challenges confronted by the Commission in mounting South Africa’s first democratic elections. The papers document a pivotal period between 1980-1994 when Ms. McDougall and lawyers in South Africa and Namibia collaborated on the defense of and gained the release of thousands of political prisoners and detainees imprisoned during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and Namibia. Among the papers is a collection of nearly 100 files on the trials of the political activists supported by the Southern Africa Project including non-confidential communications between McDougall and the lawyers representing those activists. Additionally, the papers document Ms. McDougall's role in the United States-based anti-apartheid movement and the international networking that took place among activists, including efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy. Other key events and topics reflected in the collections include the establishment of the Commission on Independence for Namibia, and the development of judicial and constitutional norms, institutions, and legislation during the post-apartheid transitional period.
Housed At: Columbia University Libraries, Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research, Human Rights Organization Archives
Location: 535 West 114th Street, 6th Floor, New York, New York,10027, United States
Catalog/Finding Aid: view
Phone: 212-854-3630
Reference Email:
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Related Archive
Title: Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Africa Project (Douglas Wachholz collection)
Time Span: About 1970-1977
Media: 4 boxes
Description: Douglas Wachholz was the first director of the Southern Africa Project of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law from 1973-1975 (originally called the Africa Legal Assistance Project). The purpose of the Project was to provide legal assistance both to victims of racial repression in Southern Africa and to individuals and organizations in the United States working to pro mote human rights in Southern Africa. The project provided legal assistance to black political leaders and other opponents of apartheid in South Africa and Namibia who have been detained incommunicado or arrested under one of the many repressive statutes. The collection includes extensive material related to the case American Committee on Africa v. The New York Times which for Wachholz served as the lead lawyer for the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) and other plaintiffs, a position he continued after leaving the staff of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The collection was donated by Douglas Wachholz.
Housed At: Michigan State University Library, Special Collections
Location: 100 Library, East Lansing, MI 48824, United States
Phone: 517-353-8700
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