RAY SUAREZ: Finally tonight, a history lesson.
This week, the African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling political party, marked its 100th anniversary.
PBS stations around the country have begun airing a new series about the ANC and the international effort to end apartheid. It’s called “Have You Heard from Johannesburg.”
This excerpt focuses on the protests in this country led by major civil rights figures.
CECELIE COUNTS: And the plan was to request a meeting with the South African ambassador. And we knew that, in order to get a meeting with the ambassador, it would have to be people of stature. The ambassador wasn’t going to meet with Joe Blow and his friends, so he needed Congressman Walter Fauntroy to make the request.
WALTER FAUNTROY (D), former U.S. Congressman: We called in advance for an appointment. And Ambassador Fourie, said, yes, well, come any time you want. And we said we’d like to come on Thanksgiving eve, when ABC, NBC, CBS, AP and UPI had nothing much to report but turkeys.
CECELIE COUNTS: And, lo and behold, the press arrived and they saw, boom, a picket line.
WALTER FAUNTROY: We spent a couple of hours talking to him.
And we simply told him, look, you have not been persuasive. And unless you call Mr. Boder now on this phone and he tells you he’s going to dismantle apartheid, we’re going to sit-in in your office.
Now, if Mr. Fourie had been wise, he would have said, Mr. Fauntroy, it’s Thanksgiving eve. My wife is home preparing a turkey. I can almost smell the dressing now. I’m going home. Now, you can stay here. The carpeting is rather soft. You can sleep on the floor. There is a water fountain out in the hall. And here’s the key to the toilet. I will see you Tuesday.
But he didn’t. He said, what? I will have you arrested.
CECELIE COUNTS: The ambassador played right into our hands. He called the police. The police came and dragged out Mary Frances Berry and Randall Robinson and Congressman Walter Fauntroy in handcuffs.
WALTER FAUNTROY: You can never get the discomfort of police officers from the District of Columbia who were told to arrest their congressman.
WALTER FAUNTROY: And I said, don’t worry about it. You put those handcuffs on me. But what you want to do is to make sure that you take me out of here in front of those cameras.
DAN RATHER, CBS News: Three prominent American blacks are free on their own recognizance today after spending the night in a Washington, D.C. jail. Walter Fauntroy, the D.C. delegate to Congress, called it — and I quote — “an act of moral witness to South Africa’s apartheid policy.”
SYLVIA HILL: When you are in a struggle and you are competing with other force that also can claim the attention of media, claim the attention of history, really, then, as an organizer, you have to strategize to overtake that moment in history.
And that is what we tried to do on behalf of the people of South Africa.
RAY SUAREZ: “Have You Heard from Johannesburg” is featured on the PBS series “Independent Lens.” Please check your local listings for the time.