Bristol’s history of anti-apartheid

Image of Nelson Mandela's face smiling against a yellow background. Licence: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic. Source:

The passing away of Nelson Mandela last week has sparked profound discussion around his place in the history of the campaign against apartheid and ongoing struggles for racial justice. Although some have noted the value of quiet reflection at this time, it is nonetheless important to remember the ways in which people in this country and around the world stood up against racial oppression in South Africa.

Bristol’s role in this movement is, however, a less well-known aspect of the history of anti-apartheid, which is unfortunate, given that the city was home to one of the largest and most active local anti-apartheid groups in the country. From the 1960s until the early 1990s, activists in Bristol worked campaigned for boycotts of South African goods and against British firms with connections with the apartheid regime, and organised an annual Festival Against Apartheid.

When South Africa held its first truly democratic elections in 1994, the local anti-apartheid group reconstituted itself as the city’s branch of Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA), a group that has continued to campaign on issues of peace, justice and solidarity in countries including Zimbabwe and Swaziland. As part of Know Your Bristol on the Move Researchers at Bristol Uni will be working with ACTSA members to create an collection of stories, testimony and memorabilia tracing the history of anti-apartheid in Bristol.