A Journalist's Perspective on South Africa

Black & White — US Civil Rights and Telling the Story of South Africa

My witnessing this moment in South Africa's history was informed by my own experiences fighting American-style apartheid in Georgia. In 1961, I and fellow student Hamilton Holmes sued the Georgia state university system and won the right to attend the University of Georgia, which had been exclusively white for some 170 years. Despite riots outside my dormitory, bricks thrown through my window, and taunting cries of "Kill the nigger," the victory was ours. Other victories were claimed by college students in sit-ins and other demonstrations in public places across the American South.

To be sure, I was not in South Africa as an activist but as a journalist whose understanding of the story was informed by my personal experience. As a journalist, I was compelled to examine both sides of the story, but all journalists bring with them the baggage of their backgrounds, and mine fueled my passion to expose the injustice of a system that denied the humanity of a people. I did not do this by editorializing but by finding the facts that would give my viewers good information that they could use to make their own judgments.

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