During the first week of March, I had the opportunity to visit the Albert Luthuli Museum in KwaDukuza and Gandhi Museum in Inanda with my SIT Cohort. Albert Luthuli was the first South African recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960 and served as the President of the African National Congress (“ANC”) between 1952 and 1967. Luthuli was a staunch anti-apartheid activist who earned recognition for his reconciliation framework and nonviolent approach to end state sanctioned violence by the National Party.
The Luthuli Museum chronicled the life of Albert Luthuli and his involvement within the ANC. Prior to becoming president of the ANC, Albert Luthuli served as a church pastor. He became a chief of a Christian branch of the Zulu tribe and held that position until he was removed by the apartheid government in 1953. His activist work captured the attention of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy who was Secretary of State at the time. The meeting between Luthuli and Kennedy was well documented by the museum in an effort to show the global impact of Luthuli’s activism and to challenge racist stereotypes about political leadership from Black South Africans.
Similarly to Albert Luthuli, Mahatmas Gandhi contributed significantly to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. Gandhi came to work in South Africa as an attorney and experienced racial discrimination under apartheid. He dedicated two decades of service to support South Africans who were fighting for their legal rights. My SIT cohort had the opportunity to speak with Ela Gandhi, the granddaughter of Mahatmas Gandhi, and learn more about her family’s activism in South Africa.
I learned that Gandhi’s wife was also an organizer and earned respect among many social circles in the anti-apartheid movement. The crucial role of women during the anti-apartheid struggle is often neglected by many scholars. Our conversation with Ela Gandhi about the women in her family illuminated the sacrifices they had to make as wives, mothers and daughters in order to ensure that the next generation would grow up in a free republic. Ela Gandhi was a member of the ANC and lived in exile when the apartheid goverment banned the organization in 1953. She ended up serving in parliament after the new government was formed under Nelson Mandela and received recognition from her party for her contributions. Her story is similar to so many other South African women who mobilized for a free republic yet do not get the recognition they deserve.