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Spelman’s Divestment from South Africa

April 2016

Taken from Swarthmore College's Global Nonviolent Action Database

In 1978, Spelman College joined the anti-apartheid campaigns that were gaining momentum in the United States as the governmental situation in South Africa grew increasingly worse. The issue of race led students at Spelman to approach their campaign to divest from South Africa differently than students at other colleges. As African Americans, Spelman students felt very connected to the suffering occurring in South Africa. Said Spelman student Betsy Amerson, “It hurts me to know that my brothers and sisters in Africa are having a hard time” (The Atlanta Journal).

Divest South AfricaOne tactic that activists at Spelman used was to interview students who were from South Africa and feature them in the student newspaper, "The Spelman Spotlight." They hoped that this would put a more personal face to the issue. They also hosted South African women on campus to give speeches. 

A characteristic unique to the Spelman campaign is that the students rarely used overt activism and instead relied on the support of alumnae. It is unclear exactly what type of influence these alumnae had; however, they certainly helped influence the college’s ultimate decision to divest in April 1986.

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