Free South Africa Movement

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Free South Africa Movement

Origins

What was called the Free South Africa Movement began on Thanksgiving Day 1984, when then-U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry, TransAfrica Forum executive director Randall Robinson, then-D.C. Congressman Walter Fauntroy and current-D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (then a law professor at Georgetown University), were granted a meeting at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The group called for an end to apartheid and the release of all political prisoners in South Africa. When their demands were ignored, the activists staged a sit-in at the South African embassy located on Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.

All but Norton were arrested for trespassing and their actions made national, then international news.

“There were already protests before, but no one got any momentum,” Berry recalls. “We wanted to get arrested. And we tried to get people lined up to get arrested the next day.”

They were arrested the next day, the day after that and the following day. In fact, every day for a year, the Free South Africa Movement (FSAM) held demonstrations at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C.[1]

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