Black History Month: Fighting to end apartheid

We’re marking Black History Month throughout October by high-lighting collections and great stories held by Gallery Oldham and Oldham Local Studies and Archives. This week we’re taking a look at the fight to end apartheid.

The Oldham Anti-apartheid Group was set up in 1986. It was just one branch of the international network which was established to inform people about the systemised segregation and oppression of black people in South Africa. It was affiliated nationally to the Anti-apartheid Movement and worked in conjunction with other local groups.

Our collections hold the archives of this group along with a selection of objects such as badges, tee-shirts and a banner. They were donated to us in 1994 after free elections were held in South Africa and the group made the decision to disband. It was a successful end to a long campaign and by donating their archive to us they ensured that its story could be told to future generations.

This photograph shows the banner in use on a march in Manchester.
This photograph shows the banner in use on a march in Manchester

The group had two main functions. Firstly it campaigned to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the apartheid system in Oldham. To do this the group held regular stalls in Oldham town centre. Secondly it raised money to support the anti-apartheid cause. These regular fund-raising activities included events such as sponsored walks, car boot sales, raffles, social evenings with live music and quizzes. 

This photograph records an event held at the Glodwick West Indian Club.
This photograph records an event held at the Glodwick West Indian Club.

A large part of the campaign was the consumer boycott of South African produce. Often the group used their own local knowledge to tailor national campaigns to circumstances in Oldham. For instance the Oldham group held pickets at various local businesses in Oldham with links to South Africa. These included Argos (for selling South African gold jewellery) and Thomas Cook travel agent (for selling South African holidays).

If you have memories of being involved in this campaign we are always interested in collecting further stories, images and objects from the local campaign against apartheid.