African National Congress

African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black (now multiracial) political organization in South Africa; founded in 1912. Prominent in its opposition to apartheid, the organization began as a nonviolent civil-rights group. In the 1940s and 50s it joined with other groups in promoting strikes and civil disobedience among the emerging urban black workforce.

The ANC was banned in 1960 and the following year initiated guerrilla attacks. In 1964 its leader, Nelson Mandela, was sentenced to life in prison, and the leadership was forced into exile. Although outlawed, the ANC became the popularly acknowledged vehicle of mass resistance to apartheid in the late 1970s and the 1980s; the training of ANC guerrillas continued in neighboring countries. Following the end of the ban on the ANC and the release of Mandela in 1990, many of its leaders returned from exile, and the ANC negotiated with the government for black enfranchisement and an end to apartheid.

In the early 1990s there were violent clashes between supporters of the ANC and Inkatha (see Buthelezi, Mangosuthu Gatsha). The ANC became a registered political party in 1994 in advance of the first South African elections open to citizens of all races. It won over 60% of the vote in the elections, and Mandela was elected president of South Africa; the ANC has continued to be the dominant party in South African politics in the years since. Thabo Mbeki succeeded Mandela as head of the ANC in 1997 and as president of South Africa in 1999.

Tensions within the ANC, largely as a result of the failure of South Africa's economic growth to benefit poorer South Africans, resulted in Mbeki's loss of the party leadership to Jacob Zuma in 2007 and his resignation as South Africa's president in 2008. ANC deputy leader Kgalema Motlanthe was elected South Africa's interim president. Following Mbeki's resignation as president, some of his ANC supporters left the party and formed the Congress of the People, but these defections and later ones, such as that associated with supporters of Julius Malema, have not affected the ANC's status as the nation's dominant party. Zuma succeeded Motlanthe as South Africa's president in 2009.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

African National Congress: Selected full-text books and articles

Fighting Years: Black Resistance and the Struggle for a New South Africa By Steven Mufson Beacon Press, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Nine "Black, Green, and Gold: The African National Congress"
South Africa: Twelve Perspectives on the Transition By J. Coleman Kitchen Praeger, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The ANC: From Symbol to Political Party"
Elusive Peace: Negotiating an End to Civil Wars By I. William Zartman Brookings Institution, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Seven "Negotiating the South African Conflict"
South Africa, in Transition to What? By Helen Kitchen Praeger, 1988
Librarian’s tip: "The African National Congress (ANC)" begins on p. 36
The Rise, Fall, and Legacy of Apartheid By P. Eric Louw Praeger, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of the African National Congress begins on p. 107
Reconciliation and Economic Reaction: Flaws in South Africa's Elite Transition By Bond, Patrick Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 60, No. 1, Fall-Winter 2006
Religion and Resistance Politics in South Africa By Lyn S. Graybill Praeger Publishers, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Albert Lutuli and the African National Congress"
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