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A Life for Freedom: The Mission to End Racial Injustice in South Africa

by Denis Goldberg foreword by Z. Pallo Jordan

Availablecloth$34.95 978-0-8131-6646-9
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504 pages  Pubdate: 03/18/2016  6 x 9  111 b&w photos, 1 map

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From June 1963 to October 1964, ten antiapartheid activists were tried at South Africa’s Pretoria Supreme Court. Standing among the accused with Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, and Walter Sisulu was Denis Goldberg. Charged under the Sabotage and Suppression of Communism Acts for “campaigning to overthrow the government by violent revolution,” Goldberg was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. The only white man convicted during the infamous Rivonia trial, he played a historic role in the struggle for justice in South Africa.

In this remarkable autobiography, Goldberg discusses growing up acutely aware of the injustice permeating his homeland. He joined the South African Communist Party and helped found the Congress of Democrats. It was his role as an officer in the armed underground wing of the African National Congress (ANC), however, that led to his life sentence—the outcome of which was a staggering twenty-two years behind bars. While he was incarcerated, the racist dogma of apartheid imposed complete separation from his black comrades and colleagues, a segregation that denied him both the companionship and the counsel of his fellow accused.

Recounted with humor and humility, Goldberg’s story not only provides a sweeping overview of life in South Africa both during and after apartheid, but also illuminates the experiences of the activists and oppressors whose fates were bound together.

Denis Goldberg is founder of the Community H.E.A.R.T. development fund, which is based in Britain and Germany and supports health and education projects in South Africa. From 2002 to 2006, he served as special adviser to the minister of Water Affairs and Forestry in South Africa. He has received numerous awards from several countries, including the Order of Luthuli in 2009, in recognition of his work against apartheid.

Goldberg’s memoir is notable in two respects. First, it provides new details about the operations of the ANC. Second, Goldberg spent more time in jail than any other white political prisoner, and his prison chapters convey a powerful sense of how political prisoners survived and even developed. He also writes frankly about the psychological and emotional costs of long-term imprisonment. -- Colin Bundy, author of Govan Mbeki

A Life for Freedom is a wonderfully written account of Denis Goldberg’s life in South Africa’s freedom struggle and adds depth and understanding to a number of issues: the contributions of white dissidents to non-racial organizing, the experiences of white political prisoners, the decision to turn to armed struggle, the global anti-apartheid movement, and post-apartheid South Africa. -- Robert Edgar, Professor of African Studies at Howard University, is co author of African Apocalypse: the story of Nontetha Nkwenkwe, a Twentieth Century South African Prophet