Currently reading:

Art + Revolution: The Life and Death of Thami Mnyele, South African Artist
By: Diana Wylie

The biography of South African artist Thami Mnyele (1948-1985), whose work focused on the individual and collective experience of apartheid during the 1970s and 1980s.  Mnyele was a member of the ANC and was deeply inspired by the Black Consciousness Movement, using his artistic talents to visually put anti-apartheid ideas into artwork.



The following are the books I have read on South Africa and the anti-apartheid movement and would strongly recommend (listed in alphabetical order of the title of the book):


117 Days
By: Ruth First

Account by Ruth First (1925-1982), prominent anti-apartheid activist and leader in both the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), of her time spent in prison in South Africa in the 1960s.

Across Boundaries: The Journey of a South African Woman Leader
By: Mamphela Ramphele

Autobiography of Mamphela Ramphele (1947-), prominent anti-apartheid activist and leader in the Black Consciousness Movement.

The Agony of Arrival: Gandhi – The South African Years
By: Nagindas Sanghavi

Although Gandhi only spent 21 years in South Africa (1893-1914), he played an immensely important role in organizing resistance against segregation in the country which would eventually influence not only the Indian population in South Africa, but also the African population as well. It was in South Africa where Gandhi formulated his belief in satyagraha and it would greatly influence the anti-apartheid movement throughout the 20th century.

Alan Paton: A Biography
By: Peter Alexander

Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country brought international attention to the political turmoil in South Africa and its repressive system of apartheid when it was published in 1948. This books focuses on Paton’s life, including his decision to become active in the anti-apartheid movement with the founding of the Liberal Party.

Albert Luthuli: Bound by Faith
By: Scott Couper

A biography of one of the most influential leaders in the liberation movement in South Africa and the first African to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Albert Luthuli (1898-1967) led the ANC throughout the turbulent 1950s and 1960s, including through the banning of the organization and the launching of the armed struggle.  This book provides an important insight to Luthuli’s ardent belief and dedication to non-violence and his deep religious convictions.

Anti-Apartheid: A History of the Movement in Britain
By: Roger Fieldhouse

This in-depth history of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Britain goes beyond the main campaigns and includes consumer, economic, and sports boycotts, the arms embargo, financial blockages, and the Free Mandela campaign, which all impacted a change in consciousness and helped revive the connection between Britain and South Africa.  This is an important story of how the international community played an important role in bringing down apartheid.

Apartheid: Calibrations of Color (Icarus World Issues Series)
Edited By: Roger Rosen and Patra McSharry

A collection of writings from South Africans published in the early 1990s, with each one showing a different perspective of the apartheid era, the resistance movements, and the hopes and challenges for building a democratic South Africa.

Apartheid’s Friends: The Rise and Fall of South Africa’s Secret Service
By: James Sanders

South Africa’s secret service, operating not only in South Africa and throughout southern Africa, but throughout the world, played an integral role in maintaining apartheid and in eliminating opposition and criticism.  This book helps us understand the lengths and depths at which the South African regime used espionage, phone tapping, torture, and even state-sanctioned murder to keep apartheid alive. This is the behind-the-scenes story of just how brutal and conniving apartheid truly was.

The Apartheid Handbook: A Guide to South Africa’s Everyday Racial Policies
By: Roger Omond

Reference book on the specific laws and policies of South Africa’s apartheid regime in a question-and-answer format.

“Armed and Dangerous”: My Undercover Struggle Against Apartheid
By: Ronnie Kasrils

The autobiography of Ronnie Kasrils (1938-), a prominent anti-apartheid activist and leader in the the South African Communist Party, the African National Congress (ANC), and the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe. Kasrils was an integral part of the ANC’s armed action, including leading sabotage missions, recruiting cadres to join MK, and maintaining contacts with countries who were allied with and supported the ANC.

The Bang Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War
By: Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva

Story of four photojournalists in South Africa documenting the brutal violence of the period 1990-1994, from when Mandela was released from prison to the 1994 elections. In 2010, this book was made into a movie by the same name.

Because They Chose the Plan of God: The Story of the Bulhoek Massacre of 24 May 1921
By: Robert Edgar

Short book on a controversial event in 1921 in which South African police and soldiers killed over 180 followers of Enoch Mgijima’s religious movement.

Beyers Naudé: Pilgrimage of Faith
By: Colleen Ryan

Biography of Beyers Naudé (1915-2004), prominent anti-apartheid activist and member of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. An incredible story of the transformation of an Afrikaner, clergyman in the Dutch Reformed Church, Broederbond member, and initially a supporter of apartheid into an active member of the anti-apartheid movement. This book also focuses on the role of the Church and church leaders in the struggle.

Beyond the Miracle: Inside the New South Africa
By: Allister Sparks

This is the story of what happened in South Africa after the celebrations of the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in 1994. Distinguished South African journalist Allister Sparks gives an account of both the achievements and the failures of the Mandela and Mbeki presidencies, and how South Africa has changed since the end of apartheid.

By: Donald Woods

Biography of Steve Biko (1946-1977), Black Consciousness Movement leader, by Donald Woods, an anti-apartheid newspaper editor, exploring Woods’ relationship with Biko and Biko’s controversial death in prison. This book was turned into the film Cry Freedom in 1987 starring Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline.

Black Sash: The Beginning of a Bridge in South Africa
By: Kathryn Spink

The story of a ardent group of white women who formed a human rights organization to oppose the injustice of apartheid. These women protested through petitions, demonstrations, creating advice centers to help those negatively impacted by apartheid laws, and campaigning for the rights of black, coloured, and Indian South Africans from the 1950s through the early 1990s.

Bram Fischer: Afrikaner Revolutionary
By: Stephen Clingman

Biography of Bram Fischer (1908-1975), prominent anti-apartheid activist and leader in the South African Communist Party. Fischer was a well-known lawyer in South Africa who supported anti-apartheid activists in court, including defending Nelson Mandela and others at the Rivonia Trial in the 1960s.

Bring Me My Machine Gun: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa from Mandela to Zuma
By: Alec Russell

An analysis of the post-1994 era in South Africa, after the celebrations of the first democratic elections and the inauguration of Nelson Mandela, this book provides an understanding of the challenges that have faced the African National Congress as they have transitioned from a liberation movement to a ruling political party.

Buthelezi: A Biography
By: Ben Temkin

Biography of Mangosuthu Buthelezi (1928-), prominent anti-apartheid activist and leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). An interesting look into the views of the Zulu and an outside look at the African National Congress (ANC).

Call Me Woman
By: Ellen Kuzwayo

Ellen Kuzwayo (1914-2006) was a ardent anti-apartheid activist from before apartheid ever even officially became enshrined in law. Starting in the 1930s, Ellen Kuzwayo fought against racial discrimination and segregation in South Africa, as well as gender inequalities. She was a champion for women’s rights throughout her life, both in the classroom as a teacher and in the communities she worked in as a political and community activist. This autobiography not only explores her life, but also sheds light on the great women in South African history who helped to bring about democracy and equality in 1994.

The Concentration Camps of the Anglo-Boer War: A Social History                                          By: Elizabeth van Heyningen

A detailed history of the British concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).  This book details the Boer and black African camps, of which there were over 100 camps throughout South Africa that housed over 280,000 people, mostly women and children.  This military tactic of the British eventually led to the deaths of over 50,000 civilians in these camps from starvation, disease, and exposure.  These camps played a vital role in the shaping of Afrikaner-British relations and the shaping of Afrikaner culture in the 20th century.

Contesting Apartheid: U.S. Activism, 1960-1987
By: Donald Culverson

An in-depth look into the interest and influence of the United States in South Africa during the apartheid era.  This book traces how activists gathered momentum and turned the anti-apartheid movement in the U.S. into a national issue that played an important role in forcing the South African government to bring an end to apartheid.

Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa
By: Antjie Krog

Antjie Krog is a South African journalist who covered the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for the media, and this is her reaction as a South African and as a journalist who covered the hearings day after day to the strengths and weaknesses of the TRC and its role in the new South Africa.

DF Malan and the Rise of Afrikaner Nationalism
By: Lindie Koorts

This is the biography of the first prime minister of apartheid South Africa. Elected in the 1948 election as the head of the National Party, DF Malan was instrumental in ushering in apartheid and helped to ensure that it stayed as a vital government policy for decades.  Malan, often overshadowed by later Afrikaner heads-of-state, is a fascinating story as it was his tactics and policies that got the National Party first elected in the country.

Death of an Idealist: In Search of Neil Aggett
By: Beverley Naidoo

Neil Aggett (1953-1982) was a white South African trade union activist who, at the age of 28, became the only white detainee to die in custody of apartheid’s security police. Aggett’s story is an important part of understanding the anti-apartheid movement as it sheds light on the role that English-speaking whites and unions played in fighting the injustices and oppression of apartheid.

Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa
By: Martin Meredith

Detailed history of South Africa from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s, focusing on the rivalry between the British and the Afrikaners, giving the reader a solid basis for understanding South African history in the 20th century.

The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence
By: Martin Meredith

A detailed history of the continent of Africa from the 1950s though the early 2000s, with several chapters dealing with South Africa under apartheid and since the 1994 elections.

Fighting Apartheid: A Cartoon History
By: International Defense and Aid Fund and UNESCO

A graphic-novel type of book detailing the history of apartheid in a series of drawing and cartoons.  This creative approach to learning about apartheid is especially helpful for young learners and for teachers for use in the classroom.

A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict
By: Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall

A history of the use of non-violence as an effective and powerful strategy during the 20th century in creating change in dozens of countries, including a chapter on the use of non-violence in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

Freedom In Our Lifetime: Collected Writings Of Anton Muziwakhe Lembede
By: Anton Muziwakhe Lembede; Edited By: Robert R. Edgar and Luyanda ka Msumza

Letters and speeches of Anton Lembede (1913-1947), prominent anti-apartheid activist and leader of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL).

Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India
By: Joseph Lelyveld

A new biography of Mohandas Gandhi, shedding new light on the influence of the lessons he learned in his 21 years in South Africa from 1893-1914 and their impact on his later leadership in India.  The book is split into two parts, with the entire Part One devoted to Gandhi’s life and experiences in South Africa.  This book helps to better understand Gandhi’s influence and role on later anti-apartheid movements in South Africa.

Guardian of the Light: Denis Hurley – Renewing the Church, Opposing Apartheid
By: Paddy Kearney

Denis Hurley (1915-2004) was a prominent voice of opposition from the Catholic Church community as a Bishop in the country and eventually Archbishop of Durban during apartheid.  Hurley was an early critic of apartheid inside the country, both from the pulpit and in the streets.  His opposition is an important part of the anti-apartheid movement as it helps show the role that religion played in the struggle, and specifically the role that Catholics in South African played.

Hani: A Life Too Short
By: Janet Smith and Beauregard Tromp

Biography of Chris Hani (1942-1993), prominent anti-apartheid leader in the South African Communist Party and chief of staff of the military wing of the African National Congress, Umkhonto we Sizwe. This engaging book tells the story of the external military mission of the ANC and the rise of one of the brightest stars in the movement.

A History of South Africa
By: Leonard Thompson

An exploration of South Africa’s history, from the origins of mankind in the region all the way through to the 21st century of the post-apartheid South Africa. To understand modern day South Africa and the apartheid years, this book serves a valuable purpose to looking at the origin of racial segregation and colonialism.

The Holocaust and Apartheid: A Comparison of Human Rights Abuses
By: Juliette Peires

Comparing the conditions under which black South Africans and Jews lived under the respective systems, Peires finds similarities between Nazi Germany in its initial years and apartheid South Africa. The book demonstrates how both groups were targeted for discrimination through legislation.  She points out, however, that while blacks were “exploited, humiliated and treated as second-class citizens, there was no attempt to impose anything like a Final Solution.”  This is an interesting comparison between two systems of mass oppression and human rights abuses in the 20th century.

The Honour to Serve: Recollections of an Umkhonto Soldier
By: James Ngculu

The inside story of the armed wing of the African National Congress, Umkhonto weSizwe, including their creation in South Africa in the early 1960s, their growth in exile, their role in the anti-apartheid struggle, and the role that the armed struggle played in the downfall of the apartheid regime.

How Can Man Die Better?: The Life of Robert Sobukwe
By: Benjamin Pogrund

Biography of Robert Sobukwe (1924-1978), prominent anti-apartheid activist and leader of the the Pan-African Congress (PAC).

A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid
By: Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

A Human Being Died That Night recounts an extraordinary dialogue. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, a psychologist who grew up in South Africa, reflects on her interviews with Eugene de Kock, the commanding officer of state-sanctioned death squads under apartheid. Gobodo-Madikizela met with de Kock in Pretoria’s maximum-security prison, where he is serving a 212-year sentence for crimes against humanity. Gobodo-Madikizela conveys her struggle with contradictory internal impulses to hold him accountable and to forgive, and reflects the same struggle that the entire nation of South African is struggling with, as well.

In No Uncertain Terms: A South African Memoir
By: Helen Suzman

Autobiography of Helen Suzman (1917-2009), anti-apartheid activist and member of the South African Parliament for 36 years as a member of the liberal opposition Progressive Party. A fascinating look at one woman’s courage to fight apartheid from within the system.

In the Dark with my Dress on Fire: My Life in Cape Town, London, Havana and Home Again
By: Blanche La Guma

The autobiography of Blanche La Guma (1927-), a prominent anti-apartheid activist in the ANC and the South African Communist Party, who continued to fight for freedom in South Africa even after being forced into exile in the 1960s.  La Guma’s story reflects both the personal and the global struggle that helped bring down the apartheid regime.

Ingrid Jonker: Poet Under Apartheid
By: Louise Viljoen

Biography of Afrikaner dissident poet Ingrid Jonker (1933-1965), who defiantly used her poetry to speak out against apartheid injustices.  Jonker became well-known to the world when her poem, “Die Kind,” was read by Nelson Mandela during his inaugural presidential address in 1994.

Into the Heart of Darkness: Confessions of Apartheid’s Assassins
By: Jacques Pauw

Despite official denials and cover-ups, the rumors of apartheid’s death squads have now been proved to be all too real. Hundreds of anti-apartheid activists were killed and thousands tortured by a group of assassins, the foot soldiers of apartheid’s secret war.  Jacques Pauw, a South African journalist,  opens up their secret and forbidden world. Into the Heart of Darkness takes you on a journey into the minds and lives of the men who went out to kill and kill again in the name of apartheid.

Isandlwana: How the Zulus Humbled the British Empire
By: Adrian Greaves

Isandlwana is the amazing story of how the Zulus defeated the British army in South Africa at the height of the British Empire. This is the story of how, following the British invasion of Zululand, the Zulus annihilated the British army in what became not only one of Britain’s greatest defeats in its colonial history, but also a symbol to black South Africans that white domination was not inevitable and could be defeated.

Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa
By: Mark Mathabane

Autobiography of Mark Mathabane’s (1960-) experiences growing up in Alexandra township, his life under the apartheid system, and his rise as a young tennis star in the 1960s and ’70s.

The Killing of the Imam: South African Tyranny Defied by Courage and Faith
By: Barney Desai and Cardiff Marney

Imam Abdullah Haron was killed in detention in South Africa in 1969.  Haron stands out as an important part of the anti-apartheid movement as leading the Muslim resistance and opposition to apartheid.  This book helps to understand the role that the Muslim community in South Africa played in resisting apartheid and how, like Steve Biko and many others, Imam Haron was killed for standing up for the rights of South Africans and against oppression.

Knowledge in the Blood: Confronting Race and the Apartheid Past
By: Jonathan Jansen

Dr. Jansen, a former Dean of Education at the University of Pretoria and currently the vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, tells the powerful story of Afrikaner students in post-apartheid South Africa dealing the past, present and future, and of apartheid’s lasting legacies in white students today.

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
By: Nelson Mandela

Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (1918-), from his days in the African National Congress (ANC) through his 27 years in prison to his eventual rise to president of South Africa in 1994. Not just a history of Mandela, but also of life under apartheid, the ANC, and the anti-apartheid movement.

The Mini-Nuke Conspiracy: Mandela’s Nuclear Nightmare
By: Peter Hounam and Steve McQuillan

A great historical account of how apartheid South Africa obtained nuclear weapons with the help of France, Germany, the United States, England, and Israel and why they developed these weapons.  This book explores apartheid’s interest in and development of nuclear weapons, and how these weapons were dealt with during the negotiations and the democratic elections of 1994.

More Than Just a Game: Football v. Apartheid
By: Chuck Korr and Marvin Close

The true story of how political prisoners under apartheid found hope and dignity through soccer.  While most people relate Robben Island to the horrific and brutal conditions that symbolized apartheid, this is the story of how the prisoners on that island survived through the sport of soccer.  Prisoners organized soccer leagues and fought for the right to play on the island in an effort to preserve their dignity and autonomy in a place that was meant to destroy it.

My Life in the Struggle
By: Maggie Resha

Autobiography of Maggie Resha (1923-2003), a prominent anti-apartheid activist and leading member of the women’s fight for rights in South Africa.  Resha went into exile and continued to work for the ANC-in-exile from the 1960s onward, playing an important role in bringing down the apartheid regime.

Native Life in South Africa
By: Sol Plaatje

First published in 1916 and one of South Africa’s great political books, Native Life in South Africa was first and foremost a response to the Native’s Land Act of 1913, and was written by one of the most gifted and influential writers and journalists of his generation. Plaatje provides an account of the origins of this crucially important piece of legislation and a devastating description of its immediate effects.

No Bread for Mandela: Memoirs of Ahmed Kathrada, Prisoner No. 468/64
By: Ahmed Kathrada

The autobiography of Ahmed Kathrada (1929-), prominent anti-apartheid activist, leader in the Indian National Congress, the South Africa Communist Party, and the African National Congress.

No Future Without Forgiveness
By: Desmond Tutu

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) (1995-1998) was a major step in South Africa in transitioning from the brutal and oppressive system of apartheid. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was named as Chairman of the TRC by then-President Nelson Mandela, and in this book, published just after the Commission published its final report, Tutu explains the importance of the TRC and its role in healing and rebuilding South Africa.

No Life of My Own: An Autobiography
By: Frank Chikane

Frank Chikane (1951-) was a prominent anti-apartheid activist from the religious community.  Ordained as a preacher in the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) church, Chikane became an advocate for Liberation Theology, focusing on Christ as liberator, seeking to liberate people of color from multiple forms of political, social, economic, and religious subjugation. His opposition to apartheid from behind the pulpit and in the streets puts him in the same category as the likes of Beyers Naude, Allan Boesak, and Desmond Tutu.  This autobiography allows us to hear from Chikane about what he witnessed and how he decided to fight against apartheid based on his religious beliefs.

Pale Native: Memories of a Renegade Reporter
By: Max du Preez

The autobiography of Max du Preez (1951-), an Afrikaner South African journalist who founded the anti-apartheid Afrikaans newspaper, Vrye Weekblad.  Du Preez helped expose some of the apartheid’s regime’s worst abuses and was an important voice of dissent in the Afrikaans community.  This book tells the story of apartheid and its demise through the eyes of this rebellious and courageous white journalist.

A People on the Boil: Reflections on June 16, 1976 and Beyond
By: Harry Mashabela

A detailed account of the Soweto Uprising of 1976, from what led to it to how it transpired to how it changed South Africa and those who participated in it, this book is a fascinating look into understanding one of the most courageous acts of resistance of the anti-apartheid movement. Mashabela also traces the student movement throughout the 1980s and the role it played in bringing down apartheid.

Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation
By: John Carlin

After being released from prison and winning South Africa’s first free election, Nelson Mandela presided over a country still deeply divided by fifty years of apartheid. His plan was ambitious if not far-fetched: use the national rugby team, the Springboks-long an embodiment of white-supremacist rule-to embody and engage a new South Africa as they prepared to host the 1995 World Cup. The string of wins that followed not only defied the odds, but capped Mandela’s miraculous effort to bring South Africans together again in a hard-won, enduring bond.

Poetry and Protest: A Dennis Brutus Reader
Edited by:  Lee Sustar and Aisha Karim

Dennis Brutus (1924-2009), who was born to South African parents in Zimbabwe and who was officially considered “colored” under apartheid laws, was a lifelong human rights activist and poet. He was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island in South Africa and became an eloquent spokesperson for the anti-apartheid movement.  This is a rich collection of interviews, poetry, and essays of his, and helps to shed light on the important role that he played in bringing down apartheid.

Rabble-Rouser for Peace: The Authorized Biography of Desmond Tutu
By: John Allen

An inside look into one of the most well-known and respected voices in the anti-apartheid movement.  Linking his religious beliefs with the social and political issues of South Africa, Tutu challenged the apartheid government both from behind the pulpit and in the streets, from the townships within South Africa to international audiences.  This book provides an in-depth look into his evolution as a leading advocate for peace, equality, and justice in South Africa.

The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution
By: Desmond Tutu; Edited By: John Allen

Speeches and writings of Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1931-), prominent anti-apartheid activist and Anglican Church leader. This provides an insight not only into just the role that Tutu played in the struggle, but also the role that the Church and its leaders played, as well.

Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer
By: Father Michael Lapsley

The autobiography of Father Michael Lapsley (1949-), a New Zealand-born priest who worked in South Africa and became an anti-apartheid activist.  Father Lapsley was the target of a assassination attempt in 1990 when an explosive device that was sent to him in the mail blew off both of his hands and blinded him in one eye.  This is a remarkable story of one man’s courageous journey to stand up for the rights of others and to overcome hatred and anger.

The Rise of the South African Reich
By: Brian Bunting

A fascinating book originally written in 1964 that traces the rise of the Nationalist Party and the apartheid regime.  Brian Bunting, an outspoken critic of the regime, makes the historical comparison of the rise of Afrikaner Nationalism with the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1930s.  Bunting not only highlights the similarities between the two nationalist movements and parties, but also highlights the link of many prominent Afrikaner Nationalists with Nazi Germany.

Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid
By: Alan Wieder

The biography of the powerful and influential Ruth First (1925-1982) and Joe Slovo (1926-1995), whose contributions to the liberation struggle, as individuals and as a couple, are undeniable.  They were leaders in the fight against apartheid since the 1940s as members of the South African Communist Party, but were involved in the struggle in different ways:  Ruth predominantly as a journalist and author, and Joe predominantly as a lawyer and chief-of-staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe.  This is an excellent book about these two struggle veterans who helped bring about the end of apartheid.

Sanctioning Apartheid
Edited By: Robert Edgar

This collection of essays was written a few years after the passage of the 1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act by the U.S. Congress.  The Act imposed sanctions on South Africa as punishment for its apartheid policies, and was the first time the U.S. government had taken a stand against the government of South Africa.  These essays examine the effectiveness of these sanctions and just how much impact they were having on the South African apartheid regime.

Secrets and Lies: Wouter Basson and South Africa’s Chemical and Biological Warfare Programme
By: Marlene Burger and Chandre Gould

This is the in-depth story of one of the darkest, most secretive, and most appalling aspects of the apartheid regime in South Africa – their use of chemical and biological weapons during the 1970s and 1980s.  These weapons were designed to maintain the apartheid regime and were used against anyone who opposed the Nationalist government.

Shades of Difference: Mac Maharaj and the Struggle for South Africa
By: Padraig O’Malley

Biography of Mac Maharaj (1935-), a prominent anti-apartheid activist and leader in both the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). This provides an amazing insight not only into the role that Indian South Africans played in the struggle, but also provides an inside look at the ANC in exile, the underground in the country, and the armed struggle.

Sharpeville: An Apartheid Massacre and its Consequences
By: Tom Lodge

The 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, where police shot 69 unarmed protestors who had been protesting apartheid’s pass laws, changed the landscape of South Africa and the apartheid regime.  The massacre led directly to both the move to the armed struggle by some in the Struggle, including Nelson Mandela, as well as the birth of the international anti-apartheid movement.  It was Sharpeville that showed South Africans and the world what apartheid was really like and how brutal it truly was.

Side by Side: The Autobiography of Helen Joseph
By: Helen Joseph

Helen Joseph (1905-1992) was prominent anti-apartheid activist since the 1950s when she was a founding member of the Congress of Democrats (COD). She played a key role in the 1955 Freedom Charter and helped to start the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW), through which she helped lead the famous 1956 women’s anti-pass march in Pretoria. Helen Joseph’s story is essential to understanding the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

Slovo: The Unfinished Autobiography of ANC leader Joe Slovo
By: Joe Slovo

Autobiography of Joe Slovo (1926-1995), prominent anti-apartheid activist and leader in both the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

South Africa: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid
By: Nancy L. Clark and William H. Worger

An introductory text that explores how apartheid came to be in South Africa, its development, and its eventual demise.

Soweto 16 June 1976: Personal Accounts of the Uprising
By: Elsabe Brink, Gandhi Malungane, Steve Lebelo, Dumisani Ntshangase, and Sue Krige

A fascinating personal side of the Soweto uprising, the accounts of these 27 men and women who were part of the uprising as students give a much-needed inside look into this important event in the anti-apartheid movement. Whereas too often the participants in this uprising are simply labeled “students,” this book gives insight into exactly who some of these courageous young students were and what motivated them to stand up for their rights.

Steve Biko: I Write What I Like
By: Steve Biko; Edited By: Aelred Stubbs C.R.

Selected speeches and writings of Steve Biko (1946-1977), prominent anti-apartheid activist and leader of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa.

The Super-Afrikaners: Inside the Afrikaner Broederbond
By: Ivor Wilkins and Hans Strydom

The inside story of the secret Afrikaner organization whose membership was so powerful that they controlled South Africa politically, socially, religiously, and economically during the apartheid era. The Broederbond were the ones who were truly in charge in orchestrating apartheid and Afrikaner Nationalism. This book provides the details of this secret organization and exposes just how powerful they truly were in South Africa.

They Fought for Freedom: David Webster
By: Julie Frederikse

The They Fought for Freedom series tells the stories of southern African leaders who struggled for freedom and justice, and yet who have been largely ignored by the history books. David Webster (1945-1989) was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa and, as an anthropologist and professor, played an important role in bringing the apartheid government’s use of repression and “death squads” to light. He was assassinated by a government hit squad in South Africa in 1989.

They Fought for Freedom: Lilian Ngoyi
By: Dianne Stewart

The They Fought for Freedom series tells the stories of southern African leaders who struggled for freedom and justice, and yet who have been largely ignored by the history books. Lilian Ngoyi (1911-1980) was one of the loudest female voices in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. As a leader in the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW), she was one of the leaders of the 1956 women’s anti-pass march in Pretoria, and she became the first woman elected to the National Executive Council of the African National Congress (ANC).

They Fought for Freedom: Ruth First
By: Don Pinnock

The They Fought for Freedom series tells the stories of southern African leaders who struggled for freedom and justice, and yet who have been largely ignored by the history books. Ruth First (1925-1982) was a prominent anti-apartheid activist, mainly working with the South African Communist Party (SACP). She exposed many of apartheid’s cruel realities through her work as a journalist, especially with newspapers like New Age. Ruth First was tragically killed by a mail bomb sent to her office in Zambia by the South African security forces in 1982.

Tomorrow Is Another Country: The Inside Story of South Africa’s Road to Change
By: Allister Sparks

Gripping behind-the-scenes story of how South Africa transitioned from being under a State of Emergency in the mid-1980s to the 1994 elections, including a detailed look into the negotiating process that eventually led to majority rule and brought democracy to South Africa.

Total Onslaught: Apartheid’s Dirty Tricks Exposed
By: De Wet Potgieter

An investigative look at several stories of espionage, corruption, abuse of power, and murder in the National Party and in the police, military, and intelligence branches of South Africa in 1980s and ’90s. A shocking book that uncovers some of the aspects of the government’s so-called Total Strategy.

Trevor Huddleston: A Life
By: Robin Denniston

The powerful story of Trevor Huddleston (1913-1998), an Anglican bishop from Britain who was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa and in Britain, where he was the leader of the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM). This book helps to illustrate both the role that church leaders played in the struggle to bring down apartheid and the role that AAM played abroad.

The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist
By: Breyten Breytenbach

This is the memoir of Breyten Breytenbach seven years in South Africa’s prisons during apartheid – two of them in solitary confinement.  Breytenbach (1939-) is a South African writer who opposed apartheid.  He left South Africa for Paris in the early 1960s, marrying a French woman of Vietnamese ancestry; as a result, he was not allowed to return to South Africa as this relationship was officially considered illegal at the time.  While illegally back in the country in 1975, Breytenbach was arrested, and this book tells the inside story of what life was like for a white South African who opposed apartheid to be in prison for the crime of high treason.

Umkhonto weSizwe
By: Janet Cherry

The story of the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC), Umkhonto weizwe tells of the decision of the ANC to adopt a campaign of sabotage and armed struggle both inside and outside of South Africa from the 1960s through the early 1990s and its role in bringing down apartheid.

The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa
By: Sasha Polakow-Suransky

A fascinating insight into the behind-the-scenes relationship between Israel and apartheid South Africa from the late 1960s up through the early 1990s.  This book exposes one of South Africa’s main allies at a time when they were widely considered to be the world’s pariah.

Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991
By: Piero Gleijeses

While much attention has been paid to the European and Asian theaters of the Cold War, it was in Southern Africa that the influence and impact of the Cold War has been vastly unreported.  Americans, Cubans, Soviets, and Africans fought over the future of Angola, the decolonization of Namibia, and over the future of South Africa.  This fascinating book sheds light on one of the most important theaters of the Cold War, and helps understand the global fight that influenced the future of southern Africa.

Voëlvry: The Movement that Rocked South Africa
By: Pat Hopkins

The amazing story of a young group of Afrikaans musicians in the 1980s who used their music to rebel against the old Afrikaner establishment that had stubbornly hung on to the oppressive, racist policies of apartheid for decades.  These young musicians attempted to show that not all Afrikaners supported apartheid, and they freed the Afrikaner culture and the Afrikaans language of the shackles that it had held in for far too long.  This is the inspiring story of how music help liberate a people and a nation.

Walter & Albertina Sisulu: In Our Lifetime
By: Elinor Sisulu

Biography of Walter Sisulu (1912-2003) and his wife Albertina Sisulu (1918-2011), both of whom were prominent anti-apartheid activists for over 60 years. Walter was a leader in the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party, while Albertina was also a leader in the ANC, as well as a leader in the United Democratic Front (UDF). This remarkable couple’s struggle against apartheid is an amazing story of courage, resilience, and determination.

When She Was White: The True Story of a Family Divided by Race
By: Judith Stone

This is the personal story of one young woman’s struggle with South Africa’s system of racial classification under apartheid. During the worst years of official racism in South Africa, the story of one young girl gripped the nation and came to symbolize the injustice, corruption, and arbitrary nature of apartheid. Born in 1955 to a pro-apartheid Afrikaner couple, Sandra Laing was officially registered and raised as a white child. But she was mercilessly persecuted in public because of her dark skin and frizzy hair. Her parents attributed Sandra’s appearance to an interracial union far back in history; they swore Sandra was their child. Others, however, thought Mrs. Laing had committed adultery with a black man. The family was shunned. And when Sandra was ten, she was removed from school by the police and reclassified as “coloured.”  This is a personal look at how apartheid tore apart a family, and a nation.

White Lies: Canon Collins and the Secret War Against Apartheid
By: Denis Herbstein

This is the incredible story of a man who dedicated his life and career to standing up for the rights of those oppressed by apartheid in South Africa.  John Collins, Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, played an important role in the anti-apartheid movement through two organizations that he started — the International Defense and Aid Fund (IDAF) and Christian Action.  The money and attention raised from these organizations helped keep the Struggle alive in South Africa and helped to defeat apartheid.

The White Tribe of Africa: South Africa in Perspective
By: David Harrison

The Afrikaners have a complex and controversial history in southern Africa, and to understand 20th century South Africa and apartheid, knowing who the Afrikaners are and the events that shaped their culture are vitally important.  This book tells the history of the Afrikaners and their settlement as a Dutch colony to their persecution by the English, and their Great Trek.  It helps understand the people who brought about apartheid in the 1940s and their role in South African history.

Winnie Mandela: A Life
By: Anné Mariè du Preez Bezdrob

Biography of Winnie Mandela (1936-), a prominent anti-apartheid activist, leader in the African National Congress (ANC), and former wife of Nelson Mandela. This book explores the many sides of the “Mother of the Nation,” from the courageous heroine that was influential in keeping the African National Congress (ANC) and Mandela’s name alive from the 1960s-1980s to the controversies surrounding her personal, financial, and political life of the 1980s and ’90s.

White Power & the Rise and Fall of the National Party
By: Christi van der Westhuizen

A fascinating account of what led to the creation of Afrikaner nationalism in the 20th century in South Africa. Written by an Afrikaner, this book explores the ideology of the National Party from its formation in 1914 to its victory in the 1948 election and its establishment of apartheid. This book focuses on the ruling party during the apartheid years, providing a unique perspective of what they believed in and why, and what caused the downfall of not only apartheid but also of the National Party.


Chain of Fire
By: Beverley Naidoo

A non-fiction book about two young people – Naledi and Tiro – who are caught up in student protests in South Africa as a result of the forced removals of families by the apartheid government to so-called “homelands.” A great book for teens about the reality of apartheid and how it impacted people’s lives.  The Kirkus Review called it “a compelling picture of the results of South Africa’s racist policies.”

July’s People
By: Nadine Gordimer

This novel is a fictitious account of a black revolt in South Africa during apartheid. In the novel the blacks in the South African police force refuse to arrest their own people, public services break down, and fighting erupts in the major cities, quickly spreading into the rural areas. Bloodshed engulfs the country. The members of the Smales family—liberal whites—are rescued from the terror by their servant, July.  This relationship gives an unforgettable look into the terrifying, tacit understandings and misunderstandings between blacks and whites during apartheid South Africa.

Please let me know of any books that you would recommend on South Africa and the apartheid era as I am always looking for new suggestions.

One thought on “Books

  1. Craig, I don’t know if you are listing novels here but a few come to this Redhawk’s mind: The Power of One, July’s People & Cry, The Beloved Country. The website looks great, keep us informed as you progress along this educational journey.

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