May 1959

Boycott Apartheid

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"We are not asking you, the British people, for anything special. We are just asking you to withdraw your support from apartheid by not buying South African goods"
Julius Nyeree, 1959

With this simple appeal the Boycott Movement was founded in Britain in 1959, with the aim of supporting non whites in South Africa. A year later the shocking events at Sharpville, where 69 unarmed protesters were shot dead by South African police, intensified emotions and the renamed Anti Apartheid Movement (AMM) stepped up its action from a simple consumer boycott to campaigning for full economic sanctions and the complete isolation of apartheid South Africa. 

From students to celebrities, trade unionists to religious leaders, Labour to the Communist party, the cause gained widespread support.

1969: Bishop David Sheppard, Anne Kerr MP, Lord Donald Soper and Ian Mikardo MP
1963:  Vanessa Redgrave, Barbara Castle and Robert Resha 
1993: Former Bishop of Stepney, Trevor Huddleston
1978: Labour MP Joan Lestor 
1965:  Actor Patrick Wymark, Bishop Reeves and journalist Ruth First
1974: British military investment continued despite opposition

In truth the UK was South Africa's largest foreign investor and South Africa was the UK’s third biggest export market. Even Labour party support dissipated after their sweep to power in 1964 when Harold Wilson declared trade sanctions "would harm the people we are most concerned about - the Africans and those white South Africans who are having to maintain some standard of decency there."

However the AMM scored several major victories including the expulsion of South Africa from the Commonwealth in 1961.

One of the most controversial battlegrounds was played out on the sports fields from lawn tennis championships to rugby internationals. Campaigns like the 'Stop the Seventy Tour', set up to stop the tour of the South African Cricket Team to England, meant frequent clashes with police. 

After the AMM succeeded in geting their suspension from Tokyo in 1964 South Africa was finally expelled from the Olympics in 1970. 

1970:  'Stop the Seventy Tour' meeting
1965: demonstrators picket the Waldorf Hotel in London where South African cricketers are staying
1970: campaigners outside Sutton Hard Court Tennis Club
1969: A policeman was stabbed in the riot at St Helen's Rugby Ground, Swansea,  during a match with the South African Springboks. The AAM continued its activities in Britain until 1994 when the African National Congress party (ANC) came to power. 
Credits: Story

Curator — Sarah McDonald, Getty Images
Photographers — Central Press, Express Newspapers, Fox Photos, Keystone Press, Steve Eason

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