History, Africa *: South Africa and Anti-Aparthied Archival Resources

This guide is intended to help any faculty, graduate, or undergraduate student find resources in the area of African history.

Archival Resources

Described below are digital archives and other resources that support the study of African resistance to European colonialism, particularly in South Africa.

African Activist Archive – an online archive of documents, photographs, artifacts, and written and oral memories of fifty years of activist organizing in the United States in solidarity with African struggles against colonialism, apartheid, and injustice. This is a "people's archive" focused primarily on local organizations in the U.S. that supported African struggles against colonialism and white minority rule. Also included are materials from national organizations that provided research, educational and organizing materials, and reporting about these local community and campus groups.

African National Congress – official website that provides access to various primary source documents, such speeches, policy reports, letters, belonging to the African National Congress, a national liberation movement formed in 1912.

AM Primary Source Collection, Africa and the New Imperialism – from the alphabetical list, a digital archive that uncovers the history of European colonization across the African continent in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century through the rare printed works, diaries and journals, correspondence, maps, photographs, and film footage. When you enter the site click on the link to this set of materials.

AM Primary Source Collection, Amnesty International Archives -- from the alphabetical list, an archive that documents the rise of the global human rights movement during the second half of the twentieth century through records of Amnesty International. The collection illuminates the history of key political events, global social change, human rights violations and campaigns with themes including abolition of torture, state violence, political prisoners, minority rights, and more, including the organization's efforts concerning apartheid and human rights abuses.

AM Archives Direct, Apartheid South Africa 1948-1980 from the alphabetical list, a resource for the study of the apartheid era in Southern Africa, sourced exclusively from The National Archives, UK. It provides unparalleled analysis of South African politics, trade relations, international opinion and humanitarian dilemmas against a backdrop of waning colonialism and mounting world condemnation.

Apartheid: Global Perspectives, 1946-1996 – source of transcripts of radio and television broadcasts as well as articles from newspapers chosen by a U.S. government agency Foreign Broadcast Information Service [which became part of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1947] to be disseminated among government officials and decision-makers. The reports were selected for their informational value to keep policy-makers informed about the international reaction to apartheid throughout the African continent and from around the world. When necessary, the reports were translated into English. No U.S. papers or broadcasts are included in this database.

The Apartheid Museum -- a museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, illustrating apartheid and the 20th-century history of South Africa. The page includes descriptions and images from permanent exhibits, temporary exhibits, a separate Mandela exhibits as well as information about the history of the museum. Also included are educational e-books and events and public programming.

Apartheid South Africa, 1948-1980 – comprehensive database of documents relating to apartheid in South Africa acquired and preserved by The British National Archives. These formerly restricted documents, provide unprecedented levels of detail, with in-depth analysis of events, international reaction and policy dilemmas, accompanied by numerous first-hand accounts and reports.

Digital Innovation South Africa – an open access scholarly resource focusing on the socio-political history of South Africa, particularly the struggle for freedom during the period  from 1950 to the first democratic elections in 1994. The site provides a wealth of material on this period of the country’s history.

Forward to Freedom – a digital archive that documents the story of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement and its campaigns to support the people of South Africa in their fight against apartheid. The movement also campaigned for freedom for Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Angola, and against South Africa’s attacks on its neighbors.

Historical Papers Research Archive, University of the Witwatersrand – a comprehensive public archive in Southern Africa, with over 3400 collections that include the records of individuals and collectives with a wide and diverse scope spanning from early colonial history, to all aspects of governance, religion, and genealogy, health, the arts, culture, and traditions, anti-Apartheid resistance, and the post-1994 South Africa.

Ibali -- the University of Cape Town platform for showcasing textual and audio-visual materials with a wide variety of media and interrelated digital archive content. There are three different categories of showcase sites available on Ibali, representing: collections held by the Library, collections developed for research projects by UCT departments, and collections curated independently by students and researchers. Use the search engine to find materials related to apartheid.

Knowledge Repository of the Economic Commission for Africa  – a database that contains information pertaining to regional programs, decisions, and resolutions promoting social and economic development in Africa published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Resources include published materials such as major publications, journal articles, conference proceedings, technical reports, mission reports, annual reports, working papers, speeches, and other grey literature, all which outline important research or decisions that have been made on the economic and social developmental aspects.

National Library of South Africa -- contains links to the online and digitized collections of the national library, including newspapers of historical value, as well as various materials from the Special Collections unit. Specific materials and collections are divided into four distinct categories: rare books, manuscripts, maps, and images and iconography.

Nelson Mandela Foundation – a non-profit organization established in 1999 that focuses maintaining and making available for interrogation and study the extensive archive collection of personal papers and multimedia items that support research about the memory, dialogue, and legacy work of Nelson Mandela. The site includes the Archive at the Centre of Memory platform that aims to generate an integrated and dynamic information resource on the life and times of Nelson Mandela through a multi-layered archive portal with content drawn from the physical archive, research and analysis and public programming.

Nordic Documentation on the Liberation Struggle in Southern Africa Project – a resource for researchers interested in the late 20th century history of national liberation in Southern Africa (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe) and the role of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) in during this period of history. The resource holdings include interviews with important actors, photographs, publications, and posters and pins from 1960-1996. The available materials are mainly in the Nordic languages, but where possible, English is indicated.

South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy [copy and paste this link: http://www.overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/index.php] – part of Michigan State University's African Studies Department, this website presents a compilation of first-hand accounts in the form of interviews with South African activists, raw video footage documenting mass resistance and police repression, historical documents, rare photographs, and original narratives.

South Africa Film and Video Project [copy and paste this link: http://africanmedia.msu.edu/safvp/index.php] – a collaborative effort between Michigan State University and partners in South Africa, to preserve and make accessible moving images from the years of struggle against apartheid. The project aims to safeguard memories of this political movement and to promote justice and reconciliation in our own time.

South African History Archive (SAHA) -- an independent human rights archive dedicated to documenting, supporting and promoting greater awareness of past and contemporary struggles for justice through archival practices and outreach, and the utilization of access to information laws. Established by anti-apartheid activists in the 1980s, SAHA was closely connected in its formative years to the United Democratic Front, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and the African National Congress. SAHA is now politically non-aligned, committed to recapturing lost and neglected histories, recording aspects of South African democracy in the making, extending the boundaries of freedom of information in South Africa, and other goals.

South African History Archive Land Act Legacy Project Collection – access to materials related to the South African History Archive (SAHA) project to conduct an oral history and photographic initiative in 2013 exploring the legacy of the 1913 Land Act in three communities (Braklaagte, Driefontein and Mogopa) in South Africa in order to mark the centenary of this act. Contained in this collection are the materials produced and collected in the course of Land Act Legacy Project. The collection consists of oral history materials, photographs taken during the project, materials collected from community members, and project documentation. Required registration but presents a lot of materials.

South African History Online – an open access, non-partisan South African project devoted to showcasing a people's history. The site contains tabs to various resources, including a general chronology of events listing South African history and culture; more than 7,000 biographical profiles that contains the Lives of Courage Project, an online “Wall of Remembrance” which lists the biographies of people who played a significant role the history of the Liberation Struggle in South Africa; the country’s political history, with particular focus on South Africa’s liberation struggle history and the country’s road to democracy; an archive of more than 50.000 documents, videos and images; and, contents of a national oral history project.

South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission -- the official site to obtain documents, testimony, and hearing materials related to the commission's work to investigate human rights abuses that took place during the struggle against apartheid. The site is currently maintained by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa.

Southern Africa Labour & Development Research Unit (SALDRU) – a repository that contains  publications from research conducted by scholars at the School of Economics, University of Cape Town, including analytical discussion papers, policy briefs, conference papers, articles published in local and international journals, and working papers.

Truth Commission Special Report Series -- Site contains links to the eighty seven part television series covered the first two of five years of the TRC hearings broadcast by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) every week between April 21, 1996 and March 19, 1998. Presented in an accessible manner by providing context to public hearings through historic audio-visual material and exclusive interviews with victims, perpetrators, witnesses, specialists in a given field, and more, the series contributed to the TRC's pursuit of revealing the truth about, and engendering a deeper engagement with, South Africa's past conflicts.

Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from vendor websites.


Chicago Anti-Apartheid Movement Collection – a collection of oral histories created by Columbia College Chicago activists engaged in the struggle against apartheid in Southern Africa. Students enrolled in a oral history methods course conducted these oral histories during the Spring 2009, Fall 2009, and Spring 2010 semesters. Users can both listen to the interviews and read transcripts of them, although some of the recordings may be less audible than others. You can also click on the link to the "Finding Aid" at the top of the web page in order to learn more about how this collection was created.

Padraig O'Malley's Oral History Interviews – transcripts of approximately 2,000 hours of interviews from 1989-2005  of prominent political role players in South Africa concerning the country's transition from apartheid to democracy conducted by the Dublin, Ireland-born scholar Padraig O'Malley. The collection presents a broad range of perspectives on events in South Africa during and after the Apartheid period.

Inanda Seminary Oral History Archive – a collection of oral history interviews conducted between October 2008 and June 2010 by Dr. Meghan Healy of Harvard University. The interviews were in English and one-on-one, except where otherwise specified and include both written and audio transcripts archived in Inanda Seminary’s campus archive, Inanda township, KwaZulu-Natal, and in the Campbell Collections, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, except where otherwise specified.

African Oral Narratives: Collections – collection that includes audio interviews, transcripts, and translations of individuals involved in military intelligence operations in South Africa during the apartheid era and photographs and oral interviews with residents in three communities in South Africa, exploring experiences of the South African transition, and the realities of life for the oppressed and marginalized majority in post-1994 South Africa. Site includes other oral history collections as well.

Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from vendor websites and this research guide..