Divestment for Humanity: The Anti-Apartheid Movement at the University of Michigan


In the 1970s, students and faculty at the University of Michigan began to protest the University’s investments in corporations that did business with the apartheid regime in South Africa.  These campus activists participated in the national and international anti-apartheid movements by pressuring the University administration and Board of Regents to divest fully from South Africa, a debate that mobilized members of the UM and surrounding Ann Arbor communities for more than a decade. This exhibit traces the anti-apartheid movement at the University of Michigan from the mid 1970s through the late 1980s and provides the first full-scale treatment of this crucial but now largely forgotten period in UM's history, linking the Sixties-era activism of the New Left and the civil rights movement to the international human rights and antiracist solidarity campaigns of the next generation.  Click on the right-side menu for sections on the origins of the anti-apartheid movement in the U.S., the emergence of a mass protest movement at UM in the late 1970s, the political and legal conflicts over divestment in the 1980s, and the pivotal legacies of this era.  

Sources and Citations: In addition to the historical narrative and visual materials, the "Divestment for Humanity" exhibit reproduces more than two hundred archival documents to allow the audience to explore original sources and multiple perspectives in more detail.  The members of the student research team selected most of these original images and documents from the thousands of sources contained in various parts of the University Archives and Michigan Historical Collections at the Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan.  Other images and documents in the exhibit come from the Joseph A. Labadie Collection in the Special Collections Library at the University of Michigan and the archives of the Michigan Daily student newspaper.  Additional materials come from a variety of online archives and public domain resources.  All images, documents, and interviews in the "Divestment for Humanity" exhibit are used with permission, with full citation provided.  Unless noted as public domain, the copyright for individual images and documents remains with the original source and not this website, meaning the materials in this exhibit can be cited and linked but not reproduced elsewhere without permission.

Readers can view larger versions of photographs and documents by clicking on the smaller embedded exhibit thumbnails and opening up individual source pages.  Multi-page documents, and higher-resolution pdf files, are available in full through the "Document Viewer" function at the bottom of the source page.  Complete citations for individual documents and images can be found by clicking/enlarging the embedded image and then consulting the "Source" line of the source page, just below the enlarged image.  The "Citation" link at the top right of each source page is not the full original document citation but rather provided for viewers who wish to cite a particular part of this exhibit.  A list of additional background sources for specific pages of the exhibit can be found at the bottom of that page, and the general resources for the exhibit are located in the Bibliography section.             

Image Credit (above): On April 24, 1985, around four hundred University of Michigan students gathered on the Diag, the central space on the main Ann Arbor campus and a site with a rich history of political demonstrations, to demand “UM Out of South Africa.”  This anti-apartheid rally was part of a coordinated action on more than one hundred American campuses, as detailed in the fourth section of this exhibit.  Photograph by Cecil Lockard, Ann Arbor News.  Used with permission.