A Struggle from the Ground Up: The Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa

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Vision and Motivation

Since the Dutch began to colonize South Africa in the 17th century, they pushed aside the native population to consolidate power in the hands of whites, whom they believed to be superior. But in 1948, the victory of the Nationalist Party in all-white elections opened an even more oppressive chapter in the history of South Africa. As a party leader declared, "Our motto is to maintain white supremacy for all time to come…by force if necessary." [1]

The new apartheid ("apartness" in Afrikaans) laws would maintain white supremacy by forcing all South Africans to identify as European, Indian, colored (mixed-race), or African, and segregating these “races” from each other as much as possible.[2] Non-whites were forcibly relocated to isolated, poverty-stricken areas, made to obtain permission to travel, blocked from voting and participation in government, not allowed to marry whites, and were largely barred from owning land.[3]

Non-whites in South Africa had resisted discrimination for decades, but they were unable to bring about real change, and in incidents such as the 1960 Sharpeville massacre and the 1976 Soweto uprising, the state cracked down harshly on protestors, arresting leaders like Nelson Mandela and killing others like Steve Biko.

In the late 1970s, grassroots civic associations sprang up in black townships to begin a new approach to activism that focused not on political action but on community development.[4] Popo Molefe declared that the movement needed to work on local issues in order to give people "the confidence that through their united mass action, they can intervene and change their lives, on no matter how small a scale."[5]

Activists began mobilizing local communities around issues like rent increases, fees for basic services like water, and forced relocations. By putting pressure on authorities through demonstrations, refusal to pay rent, picketing, and boycotts, activists made small, tangible gains.[6] However, they knew that they had to maintain a larger vision: "We must see the increasing rents, bus fares and electricity charges as being only the smoke. Our work must be geared to extinguishing the fire which causes the smoke – the system of apartheid."[7]

Goals and Objectives

The movement leaders viewed local campaigns on civic issues as a "base of first-level grassroots organization," from which activists could "start to build progressively more political forms of organization – a process which would culminate in the development of a national democratic struggle," according to Molofe.[8] This national struggle would work towards a basic goal, simply put at the 1983 founding of the United Democratic Front (UDF): "We want all our rights, and we want them here and we want them now."[9]

To accomplish this goal, activists knew they had to move beyond a series of spontaneous uprisings to build a nationwide organization. And, as the young leader Mkhuseli Jack declared, they needed to "take this fight in the townships…right to [white South Africans'] homes. And that is what led to the boycott."[10] The goal was to put pressure on the government by decimating the local economy, thus demonstrating that the country could not continue under apartheid; as Molefe put it, "We were saying to business[es]: you are part of this country. If the majority of South Africans are not treated like human beings, [if] their human rights are not respected, there cannot be stability in the country, and your business cannot thrive under conditions of instability."[11]

At the same time, the movement needed international support to overcome apartheid. "We face a catastrophe in this land," declared Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "and only the action of the international community by applying pressure can save us."[12] He called for "punitive sanctions against this government to help us establish a new South Africa," with the support of more than 70 percent of black South Africans.[13] They knew that sanctions would cause short-term economic suffering, but they accepted this as a "[price] that we are willing to pay for our freedom."[14] By inspiring international protests and media coverage, they convinced a growing number of states to levy sanctions against South Africa. By pressuring the government both at home and from around the world, the anti-apartheid movement made it increasingly clear that the apartheid system could not continue, and that the government would have to give in.

 

Leadership

The United Democratic Front (UDF), founded by Mkhuseli Jack in 1983, took the lead in organizing the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s.[15] This decentralized coalition of over 500 anti-apartheid organizations sprang up in response to limited government reforms that attempted to weaken the position of anti-apartheid activists. After the regime's 1986 crackdown, the black Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) also played a large role in leading the anti-apartheid movement through strikes.

Meanwhile, by organizing on a local basis, black communities began to take ownership of their own government, creating street committees that wrested power away from the local councils that were complicit in apartheid. Committees that were formed in township streets would elect delegates to serve on area committees, which in turn selected organizers to work with national organizations.[16] The committees not only mobilized local communities to participate in strikes and boycotts; they also settled disputes and organized services such as policing, street cleaning, garbage removal, and health care.[17] The movement had “broken the shackles of direct government rule” and, through self-governance, begun to create "people's power now, in the process of struggle, before actual liberation."[18] Furthermore, through local organizing, the movement engaged ordinary people in a non-threatening, non-violent way.

The movement also needed support from moderate and older members of the black community, many of whom had been alienated by previous violence and extremism.[19] Young activists held local meetings in which they gave older blacks an opportunity to take leadership roles. In this way, they won their trust and gained a hugely important source of intergenerational support.

Civic Environment

The South African regime cracked down on the anti-apartheid movement again and again, most severely in the late 1980s. After declaring a state of emergency in 1986, the government arrested more than 25,000 people and imprisoned them without trial.[20] Censorship regulations prevented local media coverage of anti-apartheid actions, other than simple reprints of official statements. The government banned non-violent actions like work stay-aways and boycotts, all of which were classified as forms of “subversion,” along with street committees. In 1988, the government banned all political activities by the UDF and COSATU, along with dozens of other anti-apartheid groups.[21]

Police forces were expanded to the point of a virtual military occupation, as councilors returned to the townships to wrest their power back from the street committees. Government intelligence services launched covert operations against anti-apartheid leaders, including break-ins, bombings, and assassinations.[22] The police tortured many prisoners and even deliberately provoked violence in order to kill blacks.[23]

Ultimately, the regime's repression backfired. Previously, countries like the United States had been hesitant to oppose South Africa, which was a Cold War ally. But after heavy media coverage of the 1986 crackdown prompted local protests around the world, the United States and the European Community imposed sanctions on South Africa, and new investments, loans, and South African imports were cut off.[24] This only increased the growing recognition among South Africans that the situation could not continue.

Message and Audience

The central message of the anti-apartheid movement was that apartheid must end, and that black South Africans must be given their rights. The movement needed to convince the white minority that apartheid was unsustainable. In order to do so, black South Africans exerted their power as the majority of the population via "defiance campaigns": non-violent tactics of non-cooperation with the system. The leveraged their economic power through rent boycotts, consumer boycotts of businesses owned by whites or black apartheid collaborators, student and worker strikes, and work stay-aways.

The consumer boycott was a particularly effective tactic; by decimating profits, it drove a wedge between business and government as white store owners put pressure on the government to change policy. Moreover, this was a tactic immune to government oppression; as the police intelligence chief said, "If they don't want to buy, what sort of crime is it? It’s mass action, and what do you do? You can’t shoot all those people. You can’t lock them all up."[25]

Black South Africans also refused to cooperate with the government's appointed officials in township councils. In the mid-1980s, a wave of violence swept across the townships as black councilors, police officers, and suspected informants were murdered.[26] Government authority in the townships collapsed, and local organizers filled the power vacuum with street committees. However, it is important to note that the violent acts leading to the mass resignations of local councilors resulted in an escalation of the regime’s oppression, while non-violent acts of non-cooperation resulted in many small victories.

At the same time, activists worked to secure international attention by highlighting segregation and provoking police brutality. In 1989, the movement mobilized crowds to defy apartheid on beaches and in hospitals, while organizing protests and a work stay-away.[27] At the same time, they used civil rights language that would strike a chord with civil rights activists abroad. Detainees in jail joined in, using hunger strikes to attract international publicity, as well as to pressure authorities to release them or to improve prison conditions. Meanwhile, Nelson Mandela persuaded prison authorities to let him send faxes and make calls from his jail cell to coordinate leadership of the movement; he also became engaged in secret talks with the government to find common ground for future negotiations.[28]

Outreach Activities

To succeed, activists knew that they had to work across racial lines; as Molefe said, "uniting the largest section of South Africans committed to a peaceful and just future" was the key.[29] The UDF’s membership spanned whites, blacks, and Indians; it included labor unions, students, civic associations, women’s groups, and churches. Churches served as meeting places, clergymen such as Desmond Tutu helped rally support through public speeches and organizing, and the South African Council of Churches defended political prisoners and supported their families.[30] White groups such as the National Union of South African Students also joined in, along with Indian groups.

As the anti-apartheid movement gained international support, it gained strength from a series of campaigns: an academic boycott of South African universities and scholars, a sports boycott that banned South African teams from the World Cup and the Olympics, and a divestment campaign that drained economic assets from the country. As the anti-apartheid movement grew to a global scale, the international community recognized its leaders with Nobel Peace Prizes for Desmond Tutu in 1984 and for Nelson Mandela in 1993.

Ultimately, the local and international pressure on the South African regime led to the realization that "the time for negotiation has arrived," as the country’s new president, F.W. de Klerk, said in 1989.[31] The next year, Mandela was released from prison, and the apartheid laws were repealed. After negotiations, democratic elections were held in 1994, and Mandela was elected president of the new South Africa. The country would become a parliamentary democracy based on the “one man, one vote” principle, and for five years, all major political parties would be represented in a transitional government.[32]

After decades of apartheid, Mandela declared, "never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another."[33] The story of the anti-apartheid movement serves as proof of Desmond Tutu’s declaration that "once a people are determined to become free, then nothing can stop them from reaching their goal."[34]

 

Learn More

News & Analysis

Community Video Education Trust: Documentary Footage of the Anti-Apartheid Struggle in South Africa - a digital archive of video footage documenting anti-apartheid demonstrations, speeches, mass funerals, celebrations, and interviews with activists.

Digital Innovation South Africa - a scholarly resource focusing on the sociopolitical history of South Africa, particularly the struggle for freedom during the period from 1950 to the first democratic elections in 1994.

The Heart of Hope: South Africa's Transition from Apartheid to Democracy - contains transcripts of more than 100 interviews with South African political figures, as well as summaries of historical events by year and descriptions of historical background.

South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy (Michigan State University) - an educational resource containing original video interviews with 45 South African anti-apartheid activists, chronological units and essays, raw video footage documenting mass resistance and police repression, historical documents, rare photographs, and educational activities.

South African History Archive - an independent human rights archive dedicated to documenting, supporting and promoting greater awareness of past and contemporary struggles for justice in South Africa.

Books

Ackerman, Peter and Jack DuVall. A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.

Louw, P. Eric. The Rise, Fall, and Legacy of Apartheid. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2004.

Seekings, Jeremy. "The Development of Strategic Thought in South Africa's Civic Movements, 1970-1990." From Comrades to Citizens: The South African Civics Movement and the Transition to Democracy. Ed. Glenn Adler and Jonny Steinberg. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.

Sparks, Allister Haddon. Tomorrow is Another Country: The Inside Story of South Africa's Road to Change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Footnotes
[1] Barber, James, and John Barratt. South Africa's Foreign Policy: The Search for Status and Security, 1945-1988. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Pg. 2
[2] "The Rise of Apartheid." South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy. Michigan State University.
[3] Robinson, Alonford James Jr. "Apartheid." African Encyclopedia.
[4] Marx, Anthony W. "Contested Images and Implications of South African Nationhood." The Violence Within: Cultural and Political Opposition in Divided Nations. Ed. Kay B. Warren. Boulder: Westview Press, 1993. Pg. 168.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ackerman, Peter and Jack DuVall. A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Pg. 345-6.
[7] Seekings, Jeremy. "The Development of Strategic Thought in South Africa's Civic Movements, 1970-1990." From Comrades to Citizens: The South African Civics Movement and the Transition to Democracy. Ed. Glenn Adler and Jonny Steinberg. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Pg. 67.
[8] Ibid. pg. 68.
[9] Ackerman and DuVall, pg. 348.
[10] Ibid. Pg. 356.
[11] Ibid. Pg. 358.
[12] "Tutu Risks Treason Charge in Urging S. Africa Sanctions." The Los Angeles Times. 2 April 1986.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Boesak, Allan. "Sanctions Are the Price of Freedom: It's Apartheid, Not Foreign Pressure, That Causes the Suffering." The Los Angeles Times. 12 Aug. 1988.
[15] Louw, P. Eric. The Rise, Fall, and Legacy of Apartheid. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2004. Pg. 131.
[16] Ackerman and DuVall, pg. 354.
[17] Seekings, pg. 73.
[18] Ackerman and DuVall, pg. 361.
[19] Ibid. pg. 352-3.
[20] Parks, Michael. " 'Prisoners in Our Minds': New Curbs in South Africa." The Los Angeles Times. 4 Dec. 1986.
[21] Parks, Michael. "South Africa Issues Sweeping Political Ban on 18 Groups." The Los Angeles Times. 25 Feb. 1988.
[22] Ackerman and DuVall, pg. 362.
[23] Blair, Jon. "When Memory Comes: Between Hope and History, a Nation Bravely Confronts Its Traumatic Past." The Los Angeles Times. 29 Aug. 1999.
[24] "Reigniting the Struggle: The 1970s Through the Release of Mandela." South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy. Michigan State University.
[25] Ackerman and DuVall, pg. 357.
[26] Ibid. pg. 352.
[27] Louw, pg. 149.
[28] Sparks, Allister Haddon. Tomorrow is Another Country: The Inside Story of South Africa's Road to Change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Pg. 52.
[29] Seekings, Jeremy. The UDF: A History of the United Democratic Front in South Africa, 1983-1991. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2000. Pg. 33.
[30] Ackerman and DuVall, pg. 349.
[31] Mnookin, Robert. Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. Pg. 126.
[32] Ibid. pg. 132.
[33] Mandela, Nelson. "Inaugural Address." Cape Town. 10 May 1994.
[34] Tutu, Desmond. The Words of Desmond Tutu. New York: Newmarket Press, 2007. Pg. 87.

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 We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 I was heartened that people everywhere want certain basic freedoms, even if they live in a totally different cultural environment.

- Aung San Suu Kyi (1945-present), Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, 2012

 The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognize God's image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideal, are different from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in his.

- Jonathan Sacks (1948 - present), rabbi, philosopher and scholar of Judaism, The Dignity of Difference, 2002

 It is thus tolerance that is the source of peace, and intolerance that is the source of disorder and squabbling.

- Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), French philosopher, 1686

 I think... if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, Anna Karenina, 1877

 Where in this wide world can a person find nobility without pride, friendship without envy or beauty without vanity? Here, where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined. He serves without servility, he has fought without enmity. There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent; there is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

- Ronald Duncan (1914-1982)

 Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, December 16, 1966

 I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 To deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, June 27, 1990

 I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

 I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only educating our minds, but our hearts and our souls.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, September 3, 2013

 I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it's humiliating. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from other people.

- Eduardo Galeano (1940-present), Uruguyan journalist, writer, and novelist, 2004

 God's dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.

- Desmond Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, April 26, 2005

 Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Strength to Love, 1963

 I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance. That is my religion.... My belief in my religion is strong and I know that lies will always fail and indecency and intolerance will always perish.

- Stephen Fry (1957-present), English comedian, actor, writer, presenter, and activist, 1993

 Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.

- Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), German poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic, Almansor, 1821

 We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 It is my inmost conviction, Badshah Khan said, that Islam is amal, yakeen, muhabat – selfless service, faith, and love.

- Badshah Khan (1890-1988), Pashtun independence activist

 While differing widely in the various little bits we know, in our infinite ignorance we are all equal.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 1963

 No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

- Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, "I Have a Dream", August 28, 1963

 Human nature is not simple and any classification that roughly divides men into good and bad, superior and inferior, slave and free, is and must be ludicrously untrue and universally dangerous as a permanent exhaustive classification.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Evolution of the Race Problem, 1909

 If we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), 35th President of the United States, October 10, 1960

 Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.

- John Locke (1632-1704), English philosopher, Second Treatise of Government, 1689

 Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944

 I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July 15, 1944

 If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, On Liberty, 1859

 There's in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated, and grown will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated May 3, 1944

 We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, colour, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, I am Prepared to Die, Statement in the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court, April 20, 1964

 Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Loving Your Enemies, 1957

 I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people’s houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 How many paths are there to God? There are as many paths to God as there are souls on the Earth.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 [W]e are all guilty in some Measure of the same narrow way of Thinking... when we fancy the Customs, Dresses, and Manners of other Countries are ridiculous and extravagant, if they do not resemble those of our own.

- Joseph Addison (1672-1719), English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician, 1711

 Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.

- Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), American lawyer, May 8, 1888

 The open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, The Rights of Man, 1791

 Injustice, poverty, slavery, ignorance — these may be cured by reform or revolution. But men do not live only by fighting evils. They live by positive goals, individual and collective, a vast variety of them, seldom predictable, at times incompatible.

- Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), Russo-British Jewish social and political theorist, philosopher and historian, Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century, Foreign Affairs, 1950

 No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States, Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, 1786

 There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another’s beliefs, practices, and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them.

- Joshua Loth Liebman (1907-1948), American rabbi and best-selling author, Peace of Mind: Insights on Human Nature That Can Change Your Life, 1946

 Religion must mainly be a matter of principles only. It cannot be a matter of rules. The moment it degenerates into rules, it ceases to be a religion, as it kills responsibility which is an essence of the true religious act.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 WHAT is tolerance? it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly--that is the first law of nature.

- Voltaire (1694-1778), French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, 1764

 Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1940

 No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 More dangerous than bayonets and cannon are the weapons of the mind.

- Ludwig Van Mises (1881-1973), leader of the Austrian School of economic thought, Liberalism, 1927

 It is a worthy thing to fight for one's freedom; it is another sight finer to fight for another man's.

- Mark Twain (1835-1910), American author and humorist, June 17, 1898

 Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement

 I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.

- T. H. White (1906-1964), English author

 Freedom of judgment must necessarily be permitted and people must be governed in such a way that they can live in harmony, even though they openly hold different and contradictory opinions.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 It is hardly possible to overrate the value, for the improvement of human beings, of things which bring them into contact with persons dissimilar to themselves and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar... It is indispensable to be perpetually comparing [one's] own notions and customs with the experience and example of persons in different circumstances.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, Principles of Political Economy, 1848

 I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 It is the enemy who can truly teach us to practice the virtues of compassion and tolerance.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), Ocean of Wisdom: Guidelines for Living, 1989

 The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress.

- Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), American theoretical physicist

 We need a little more compassion, and if we cannot have it then no politician or even a magician can save the planet.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1950

 First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

- Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, January 6, 1946

 We all live with the objective of being happy, our lives are all different and yet the same.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July, 6, 1944

 Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1886

 I have no animosity towards anyone. Whoever displays human dignity, regardless of their religion or faith, I bow my head before them and hold them dear.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

 To build a future you have to know the past.

- Otto Frank (1889-1980), Holocaust survivor who was a German-born businessman and father of Anne and Margot Frank, 1967

 I respect Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Bahá’ís, etc., even non-believers who believe in the principles of humanity. I love them dearly and kiss the hands of each and every one of them.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

 I knew that to really minister to Rwanda's needs meant working toward reconciliation in the prisons, in the churches, and in the cities and villages throughout the country. It meant feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the young, but it also meant healing the wounded and forgiving the unforgivable.

- John Rucyahana (1945-present), former Rwandan Anglican bishop, The Bishop of Rwanda: Finding Forgiveness Amidst a Pile of Bones, 2007

 The time must come when, great and pressing as change and betterment may be, they do not involve killing and hurting people.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Dark Princess, 1928

 At every level of society, familial, tribal, national and international, the key to a happier and more peaceful and successful world is the growth of compassion.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), spiritual leader of Tibet, September 21, 2012

 How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, March 26, 1944

 The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, John Brown, 1909

 Is discord going to show itself while we are still fighting, is the Jew once again worth less than another? Oh, it is sad, very sad, that once more, for the umpteenth time, the old truth is confirmed: "What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews."

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated as May 22, 1944

 Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.

- William James (1842-1910), American philosopher and psychologist

 And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.

- Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992), economist and philosopher, 1944

 Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa

 A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.

- Desmund Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, September 7, 1986

 He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Dissertation on First Principles of Government, July 1795

 Even God doesn't propose to judge a man till his last days, why should you and I?

- Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), American self-help author and lecturer

 Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, 1995

 The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?

- Pablo Casals (1876-1973), Spanish cellist, 1974

 Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement

 If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1961), 35th President of the United States, Commencement Address at American University, June 10, 1963

 All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness … the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 We all know we are unique individuals, but we tend to see others as representatives of groups.

- Deborah Tannen (1945-present), linguist and author, You Just Don't Understand, 1990

 There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, 1900

 If our goal is to be tolerant of people who are different than we are, then we really are aiming quite low. Traffic jams are to be tolerated. People are to be celebrated.

- Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, April 2, 2013

 Many of our problems are created by ourselves based on divisions due to ideology, religion, race, resources, economic status or other factors. The time has come to think on a deeper, more human level and appreciate and respect our sameness as human beings.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 We recall our terrible past so that we can deal with it, to forgive where forgiveness is necessary, without forgetting; to ensure that never again will such inhumanity tear us apart; and to move ourselves to eradicate a legacy that lurks dangerously as a threat to our democracy.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, February 25, 1999

 The golden rule of conduct... is mutual toleration, seeing that we will never all think alike and we shall always see Truth in fragment and from different angles of vision. Even amongst the most conscientious persons, there will be room enough for honest differences of opinion. The only possible rule of conduct in any civilised society is, therefore, mutual toleration.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live in somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me unless there is peace and joy finally for you too.

- Frederick Buechner (1926-present), American writer and theologian

 For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa,Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 [Most] can seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as obliges them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed, perhaps with much difficulty — conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher

 I believe in God who made of one blood all races that dwell on earth. I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers, varying through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, 1920

 You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, October 10, 2013

 I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States,Letter to Archibald Stuart, Philadelphia, December 23, 1791

 The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1885

 Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.

- Maya Angelou (1928-2014), American poet and author

 Tolerance implies a respect for another person, not because he is wrong or even because he is right, but because he is human.

- John Cogley (1916-1976), author of Religion in a Secular Age, 1968

 You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.

- William Wilberforce (1759-1833), English abolitionist, 1791

 All of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us.... this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God.... And that, simply, is blasphemy.

- Pope Francis (1936-present), May 22, 2013

 Compassion is not religious business, it is human business. It is not a luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability. It is essential for human survival.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935 - present), spiritual leader of Tibet

 I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies another this right makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Age of Reason, 1794

 If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 Each person must live their life as a model for others.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

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About Tavaana

Tavaana: E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society is Iran’s pioneer e-learning institute. Tavaana – meaning ‘empowered’ and ‘capable’ in Persian – was launched on May 17, 2010 with a mission to support active citizenship and civic leadership in Iran through a multi-platform civic education and civil society capacity building program. Tavaana holds a vision for a free and open Iranian society, one in which each and every Iranian enjoys equality, justice and the full spectrum of civil and political liberties.

About The Tolerance Project

The Tolerance Project aims to inspire conscience, pluralism, religious freedom, and celebration of difference. Using an array of educational materials in Arabic, Persian, and English, The Tolerance Project emphasizes the capacity of each and every individual to counter hate, and imparts the benefits of living in tolerant, open societies. The Tolerance Project educates to prevent persecution and genocide, cultivating the basis for vibrant and stable societies in the broader Middle East.

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