How did the South African anti-apartheid movement inspire African Americans in their fight for freedom from racial inequality? Dr Nicholas Grant explores the history of international opposition to racism to find out the answer.

Rarely has African American history been neatly contained within the borders of the nation-state – with racial conflicts in the U.S. often playing out on the international stage. 

UEA’s Dr Nicholas Grant has carried out research that traces the history of black international opposition to racism and white supremacy.

Historically, African American activists have allied themselves with a range of black self-determination movements around the world, whilst recent political events have also shed light on the global significance of the black freedom struggle in the United States. 

Take the recent death of the black teenager, Michael Brown, for example, who was killed in November 2014 at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Hundreds of people gathered outside of the U.S. Embassy in London in solidarity with protestors in Ferguson. The emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States has subsequently received vocal support from black and people of colour all over the world.” 

Activists in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East and Africa have drawn parallels with this movement, connecting it to their own struggles against race discrimination, colonialism and imperialism. 

Going back over half a century Dr Grant’s research examines the global nature of black protest by examining how African Americans engaged with, supported and were inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement. This is the focus of his forthcoming book, ‘We Shall Win Our Freedoms Together’: African Americans and Apartheid, 1945-1960. 

The book is rooted in extensive research in archives on both sides of the Atlantic, providing an authoritative account of the development of anti-apartheid activism between the United States and South Africa. It draws on previously untapped sources, including government records, newspapers, correspondence, magazines, film, novels and musical performances. It also analyses how anti-racist protest was internationalised in both countries during the early Cold War. 

By tracing these connections, Dr Grant hopes to shed light on the extent to which African Americans were part of broader struggles against colonialism and for human rights, as well as how international politics shaped the development of the long civil rights movement in the United States. 

What connections will you make?

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The Expert

Nicholas Grant

Lecturer in American Studies
The School of Art, Media and American Studies

Nicholas Grant is a Lecturer in American Studies. He joined the Department of American Studies at UEA in 2013 after completing his doctoral research at the University of Leeds. Nick has previously taught at Leeds and York universities.

For more about Nick’s research visit his website here.