During his lifetime, South African poet Dennis Brutus made incredible contributions to the fight against apartheid. Brutus died on December 26, 2009, after successfully battling segregation in athletics with global recognition. Fresh Air remembers the life and achievements of Brutus in this interview from 1986
This interview was originally broadcast on April 22, 1986.
Invictus director Clint Eastwood and star Morgan Freeman — who was Nelson Mandela's pick to portray him — talk about telling the story of one pivotal public gesture the former South African president made shortly after his election, hoping to make a big statement that would help ease decades of racial bitterness and injustice in his nation.
A pioneering political leader in the fight against apartheid, for 13 years Suzman was the sole representative in South Africa's all-white Parliament to reject race discrimination. She died Thursday at 91.
We remember newspaper editor and anti-apartheid activist Donald Woods. His relationship with the slain black South African activist Steve Biko was dramatized in the 1987 film, Cry Freedom. He died yesterday in England, where he had lived for over 20 years. Well listen back to a 1987 interview.
Former president of South Africa, F.W. Deklerk. He dismantled apartheid, released Nelson Mandela from prison, and later shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela. Deklerk has a new autobiography, "F.W. DeKlerk: The Last Trek A New Beginning (St. Martin's Press).
Magubane has been photographing life in South Africa for over 40 years, depicting the reality of life under Apartheid, including the Soweto uprising and the Sharpeville massacre. He was the first black South African to win a photography prize in his country. But he also endured 586 days in solitary confinement, six more months in jail, and five years of "banning" in which he wasn't allowed to work. He's published 11 books.
Author Mark Behr talks about his experience spying on his peers as a college student for the South African government and his subsequent public confession of his actions. His novel "The Smell of Apples" (Picador USA) is the story of a young boy growing up in South Africa at the time of apartheid and it explains how a person could be convinced that apartheid is a morally legitimate form of government.
Sindiwe Magona is a fiction writer who was born and educated in South Africa. Her autobiography, "To my Children's Children," traces her life under the apartheid system. In her memoir, she describes her childhood in a poor South African town, and the hasty end a teenage pregnancy put to her career as a teacher. The memoir won an honorable mention from the 1991 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa. Magona has also published a novel, "Forced to Grow," and a collection of short stories. She currently works as a translator for the United Nations.
South African journalist John Matisonn. Matisonn is white and grew up in the suburbs in Johannesburg. (His grandparents emigrated to South Africa at the turn of the century). To NPR listeners he's best known for his coverage from South Africa from 1986 to 1991. Matisonn also worked in Washington, D.C. He's now the head of elections for the South Africa Broadcasting Company, SABC, (which before the end of apartheid, broadcast purely government propaganda).
Journalist and author Allister Sparks. Sparks is a fifth- generation South African. He heads the Johannesburg Institute for the Advancement of Journalism. In 1990, he published his historical study of South Africa called "The Mind of South Africa" (Knopf). His recent piece in "The New Yorker," called "The Secret Revolution" (April 11, 1994, p.56), reveals the little known, behind the scenes drama that started unfolding within South Africa almost 10 years ago.
Afrikaner poet, painter and dissident Breyten Breytenbach. In 1975, Breytenbach was an anti-apartheid activist in exile. When he made a secret visit to his native South Africa, Breytenbach was arrested, charged for treason, and imprisoned for seven years. In his writing, Breytenbach "alternates outrage at South Africa's governmental policies of apartheid with love for his country and its landscape". Breytenbach's most recent work is "Return to Paradise" (Harcourt Brace).
South African labor leader Emma Mashinini. Mashinini was Secretary of the Commercial, Catering, and Allied Workers Union of South Africa, one of South Africa's biggest trade unions, and was arrested and detained for six months. Mashinini's autobiography, "Strikes Have Followed Me All My Life," has just been published. (by Routledge).
Joe Davidson is a Black American reporter who has been covering the recent apartheid reforms for the Wall Street Journal. He shares his take on the situation on the ground, and describes some of the discrimination he's faced.
Richard Mkhondo is a black South African who reports on his home country. He says the government's recent legislation to roll back apartheid will have minimal impact on blacks, and does nothing to to address the issue of restitution.