University of Iowa

African Studies Program to discuss dockworkers and the struggle against apartheid, April 27

April 22nd, 2016

UI International Programs and the African Studies Program invite you to attend an upcoming baraza titled, "Durban Dockworkers and the Struggle against Apartheid." Featuring guest speaker Peter Cole, this event will take place on Wednesday, April 27, 2016, from 12-1:30 p.m. in 1117 UCC. 

The militancy of Durban dockers has a long history and historiography. Through their actions on the job — that is, on the waterfront — dockworkers contributed mightily to the struggle against apartheid from the 1950s through the 1970s; indeed, their activism predated the rise of formal apartheid. In the 1950s, many Durban dockers became involved in the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) and some of these later became involved with other Congress alliance members and Umkhonto we Sizwe when it was formed in the early 1960s. Of course, this wave of activism was met by massive state repression resulting in the so-called “quiet decade.” Durban dockers, though, were among the first South Africans to start making noise again, striking in 1969 and again in 1972. This latter strike, despite intense repression including mass firings, contributed to the far-more-famous Durban Strikes of early 1973. Curiously, Durban docker activism waned in the late 1970s and 80s--precisely when growing numbers of black workers started to become more active, via strikes and unions. While complicated, global changes in marine transport, called containerization, along with the re-casualization of the waterfront weakened Durban dockers in the same period that many other black workers were becoming bolder.

Guest speaker Peter Cole is a professor of history at Western Illinois University. Currently, he is writing a book entitled Dockworker Power: Race, Technology & Unionism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area. Previously, he wrote Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia and edited Ben Fletcher: The Life & Times of a Black Wobbly. Cole also is a Research Associate in the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

To learn more about upcoming African Studies Program events, visit the ASP events page.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact James Giblin in advance at james-giblin@uiowa.edu or 319-335-2288.

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