It may not have felt like it at the time, but on 28th March this year we all lost something special. No, I don’t mean our wallets or our smart phones. What we lost was something even more important – a bit of global conscience. What do I mean? It was the day South African veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle Ahmed Kathrada died, aged 86.
Ahmed Kathrada may not be a name you’re very familiar with. Yet even as a youth this man had stood shoulder to shoulder with Nelson Mandela and other great anti-apartheid leaders right from the beginning of the campaign against the consolidating apartheid state in the 1940s. He was also with Mandela throughout his long incarceration.
On 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela was released after spending 27 years in South African prisons, most of them on Robben Island, where he and other African National Congress members were sentenced to hard labour. It would be another 4 years until a democratic election, open to all South African adults for the first time, resulted in him becoming president.
The Labour History Archive & Study Centre at the People’s History Museum houses many photos of the anti-apartheid movement in Britain, as well as a wide range of pamphlets from South Africa, Britain, and elsewhere, including a few in support of Britain’s economic links with apartheid South Africa. Anyone is welcome to come and look at them and much more. See our website for visiting information.
Sometimes there’s nothing nicer than picking up an outsize tome packed with illustrations, and relaxing with it over a coffee. Some are very light reads, others more substantial.
Strolling among the shelves of the Centre, I came across one of the more substantial kind – The Illustrated Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (published 1996). Having seen the 2013 film based on his memoirs, I spent a happy couple of hours absorbed in fascinating pictures, trying to assess how accurate the cinema experience had been. Who was Nelson Mandela? If I wanted to get to know him, I’d surely meet him in these pages.
We can smile when you are free. Happy Birthday Mr Mandela – Aklisur
It won’t surprise you to hear we have a lot of material about Nelson Mandela in the library. The influence of this one man has been so far reaching it’s difficult to comprehend, and in these weeks after his death the whole world is reflecting on his impact. Of course, his influence is felt no less strongly at the local level – here in Manchester and in our schools.