Marketplace: Nelson Mandela's legacy is economic, too
South Africa's first black president and anti-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela, died Thursday at the age of 95.
Mandela was released from a South African prison in 1990 after 27 years of harsh internment. Four years later, he was elected president of South Africa in that country's first free, non-racial, democratic elections.
For decades after South Africa's declaration of Grand Apartheid in 1948, Mandela and his African National Congress (ANC) galvanized a massive international solidarity effort to pursue divestment and economic sanctions. At the movement's peak in the late 1980s, hundreds of universities, governments and pension funds in the U.S. had pulled billions of dollars out of South Africa, helping to undermine the apartheid regime.
The cultural and political impacts of divestment were also profound in the United States, especially for African-Americans and other young activists who had grown up after the civil rights movement. Sarah Willie-LeBreton teaches Black Studies and sociology at Swarthmore College. She was a student at Spelman and Haverford colleges in the 1980s.
"My role was not the same as Nelson Mandela's role, or Stephen Biko's role, or the millions of people in South Africa," said Willie-LeBreton. "But my role was part of being second-wave, a student of color on a predominantly white campus, in an over-developed nation, that could say, 'what is our complicity in this?'" ...