Today’s blog was written by Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives and Michael Arzate, Summer Diversity Intern at the National Archives
There is perhaps no other name so greatly associated with the South African anti-apartheid movement as Nelson Mandela’s. He is considered one of the greatest global advocates for peace and equality in South Africa. Born on July 18, 1918, in the village of Mvezo, Transkei [in the southeastern region of South Africa], Mandela made history when he was elected as the country’s first Black President in 1994, in a fully representative election.
Mandela began his revolutionary career in the early 1940s, at the University of Witwatersrand, where he was the only native African law student. Throughout his years at the law school, Mandela was engaged in a number of nationalist and socialist organizations that advocated the core tenets of his beliefs, which were social and civil equality. After the 1948 election, the National Party adopted an openly racist policy and expanded racial segregation through the passage of tougher apartheid legislation. Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) directly attacked the apartheid system through the use of radical and revolutionary protests, boycotts, and strikes.
The National Archives has several photographs on Mandela’s visits to the United States and of US leaders visiting with him in South Africa. Within record Group 59 General Records of the Department of States are an assemblage of photographs relating directly to the highest-profile officials at the Department of State. The Photographic Portraits and Events Coverages relating to Secretaries of State, compiled 1969-1993 series (National Archives Identifier 518083) contains images of Secretary of State James A. Baker greeting Nelson Mandela upon arrival in Washington, D. C.
Record Group 306 Records of the US Information Agency consists of photographs of Presidents of the United States with foreign dignitaries and their visits to the United States. This series contains a photograph of President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela at Andrews Air Force Base in 1994. Also in this record group are photographs from the Photographs Assembled for “Topic” Magazine Coverage of Political, Economic, and Cultural Life in the United States and Africa, compiled 1965-1990 series (National Archives Identifier 1055788). This series comprises the principal working file of photographs deployed, or considered for deployment, in the US Information Agency’s (USIA’s) heavily illustrated publication disseminated in sub-Saharan Africa, “Topic” magazine. This series includes photographs on the historic visit of Nelson Mandela to the United States in 1990.
Record Group 330 Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense contains photographs focusing on Mandela’s visit to Washington, D. C. in October 1994. Within the series Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files, compiled 1982-2007 (National Archives Identifier 6274097) there are several photographs detailing Mandela’s arrival and departure from Andrews Air Force Base. This series consists of camera original images made by photographers from the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and to a lesser extent the US Coast Guard from 1982 through 2007. Most of the photographs are available through the Online Public Access (OPA) catalog.