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Student Protest Movements at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Anti-Apartheid Activism (1982-1987)

Anti-Apartheid Activism at UNC-Chapel Hill

In the mid-1980s, UNC-Chapel Hill students led an anti-Apartheid movement on campus to successfully influence university administration to divest from companies operating in South Africa. The student organization Anti-Apartheid Support Group officially formed at UNC in 1985 after years of activism on campus largely led by the Public Research Interest Group (PIRG). Student, faculty, and community support for divestment swelled with the leadership of the Anti-Apartheid Support Group. Protest activities included building a shanty town at South Building and occupying the Chancellor's office. In 1987, UNC-Chapel Hill officially divested from South African companies.

See also the Timeline of 1980s Anti-Apartheid Activism at UNC-Chapel Hill, a blog post by University Archives at Wilson Special Collections Library.

Archival Resources

Anti-Apartheid Support Group of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1980-1987

The Anti-Apartheid Support Group (AASG) was organized and officially recognized as a student organization at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in October 1985. From 1985 to 1987, the AASG led the campus movement against apartheid by insisting on divestiture of all University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill holdings in companies operating in South Africa. Their protests and demonstrations peaked in March and April 1986 when the group erected shanties in front of South Building. The group was dismantled shortly after the the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Endowment Board voted in October 1987 to divest all of its holdings in companies operating in South Africa. Records, 1985-1987, of the Anti-Apartheid Support Group, include newsletters, membership lists, and some correspondence. Also included are materials, 1981-1985, about anti-apartheid activities that predated the formation of AASG and materials, 1980-1987, about anti-apartheid activities elsewhere.

Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Christopher C. Fordham Records, 1969-1995 (bulk 1980-1988)

Christopher C. Fordham was the chief administrative officer of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1 March 1980 until 30 June 1988. There are multiple folders related to divestment and investments in South Africa, plus the South African Education Program, 1980-1986.

Student Government of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1919-2022

Records about divestment are across this collection (search Ctrl-F for "divestment" and "divestiture").

Carolina Union of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1931-2014

Contains files on student organizations that applied for official university recognition. See Box 4 Action against Apartheid and Box 17 UNC-CH Anti-Apartheid Support Group.

Daniel H. Pollitt Papers, 1935-2009

Daniel Hubbard Pollitt (1921-2010) was a law professor, civil liberties lawyer, progressive activist, and staunch advocate and defender of civil liberties and civil rights. The collection documents Daniel H. Pollitt's legal career and his scholarly and public service interests and activities. Folder 1181 is his research file on University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: South Africa (divestment), 1985-1986.

Other activists and entities associated with UNC-Chapel Hill and the Town were very active in Anti-Apartheid protests. These include:

John Kenyon Chapman Papers, 1969-2009

John Kenyon Chapman (1947-2009), known as Yonni, was a life-long social justice activist, organizer, and historian who focused his academic and social efforts on workers rights and African American empowerment in central North Carolina.

Chapman became involved with the Workers Viewpoint Organization, a diverse nationally active progressive organization that was involved in many workers rights and racial justice campaigns, as well as African liberation and anti-apartheid struggles, in and around Greensboro and Durham, N.C. In 1979, he joined the Communist Workers Party, a radical Maoist political organization with militant and strongly anti-capitalist principles that focused its efforts chiefly on unionization and civil rights. On 3 November 1979, the Communist Workers Party held an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally in Greensboro. Armed members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party arrived at the rally and opened fire, killing five Communist Workers Party members. This event is known as the Greensboro Massacre, and the victims are remembered collectively as the CWP-5. Chapman was present at the Greensboro Massacre, an event that helped to solidify his commitment to social justice advocacy. He remained an active member of the Communist Workers Party until it dissolved in the early-mid 1980s.

War Resisters League, Southeast Regional Office Records, 1966-1995

The War Resisters League (WRL) was founded in 1923 by pacifists who had opposed American entry into World War I. League members have been active in organizing opposition to American involvement in military conflicts, including World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War. The League also was involved in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and has also supported the women's movement, the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, and other social justice causes. The Southeast Regional Office of the War Resisters League was established in 1977 in Chapel Hill, N.C., for the purpose of supporting WRL activities and other peace and social justice groups in the southeastern United States. A few years later, the office moved to Durham, N.C., where it operated until 1989.


From the 1987 UNC-Chapel Hill Yackety Yack, digitized, pages 86-88:

1987 Yackety Yack page 861987 Yackety Yack page 871987 Yackety Yack page 88

Print Sources

The Yackety Yack

The Yackety Yack is the student yearbook at UNC-Chapel Hill. The yearbook tended to feature photographs of Anti-Apartheid protests and other activism on campus not available in other publications. UNC-Chapel Hill yearbooks are digitized and available through year 1991 for free via the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.

The Daily Tar Heel

Published since 1893, the Daily Tar Heel is the primary student newspaper at UNC-Chapel Hill and includes coverage of all student protests through news articles, photographs, editorials, and letters to the editor. The paper can be accessed on microfilm in the North Carolina Collection. The paper is freely available through December 5, 2008 via the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center. Library patrons or users affiliated with UNC have free access to the paper via the database

Black Ink 

Black Ink is a news source published by the Black Student Movement at UNC-Chapel Hill. Issues from November 1, 1969 – December 1, 2001 can be accessed in the North Carolina Collection and online via DigitalNC.