South Africa's Resistance Press Alternate Voice in the Last Generation under Apartheid

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South Africa's Resistance Press Alternate Voice in the Last Generation under Apartheid. Les Switzer and Mohammed Adhikari, eds. Athens, OH: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 2000. 505 pp. $30.

The multicultural twosome of Professor Les Switzer of the School of Communication at the University of Houston in Texas and Senior Lecturer Mohammed Adhikari of the Department of History at the University of Capetown in South Africa have written a seminal textbook about one of the world's most turbulent, multicultural nations and its resistance press.

Although South Africa's resistance press was predominantly black, it formed an unusual alliance with supportive white bishops, Afrikaner "vertigtes" (enlightened Afrikaners), and Englishmen. These unlikely allies published newspapers that had a twofold mission: to support black South Africans' struggle for equality and dismantle the Afrikaans' Hitlerian apartheid.

I became aware of South Africa's resistance press early in its history. During the 1950s and 1960s, I was the editor of three major black newspapers in New York; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago. Designated by Newsweek in October 1983, as "the angry man of the Negro press," I wrote columns comparing similarities and dissimilitudes of the black struggles for racial equality in the two nations. My four trips to South Africa included a two-week cultural organization-sponsored trip in 1991 and a four-day assessment in 2000 of its AIDS crisis.

For decades, South Africa's apartheid and the United State's euphemistic "separate but equal" provoked black resistance through mass demonstrations and militant black press articles. In the United States, Stokely Carmichael credited the black press with helping to inspire the black power movement of the 1960s. In South Africa, Professor Les Switzer noted that the resistance press was "associated with the Black Consciousness movement and its press during the 1970s."

But South Africa's resistance press did double duty. It agitated for racial equality and opposed censorship of the press. As Professor Switzer confirms, the resistance press "provided a voice to alienated communities that were too often voiceless ... and contributed immeasurably to broadening the concept of a free press."

The book's excellent research, however, suffers from a lack of historical synergy in its introduction. For example, the introduction s first half traces the history of South African apartheid from the deadly violent 1960s to the nation's first multicultural, democratic election on 24 April 1994. But this first half never analyzes the extent to which the resistance press influenced historic events over a thirty-year period. …