South Africa

In South Africa the liberation movement fought against apartheid not only through taking collective direct action, but also by building a counter-culture based in pride and creativity. Black Consciousness battled against internalized racism, creating a new grassroots psychology of self-respect and community power. Through song, Black South Africans fortified their movements with humor and imagination, even in the most extreme conditions. The first protestors to die fighting the pass laws in the 1960s found strength in music. During the 1976 student actions against Afrikaans in black schools, protestors faced police attacks with live ammunition by singing together. Hugh Masekela, a musician exiled from South Africa, said: “We will go down in history as an army that spent a lot of time singing, rather than fighting.” But this people’s army, in which everyone was a musician, triumphed against an apartheid system that many believed was unshakable.

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