Jacob Ivey


In the mid-1980s, a series of protests erupted across the state of Florida attempting to address the issue of United States support for the apartheid regime in South Africa. In May 1986, Thandi Luthuli-Gcabashe, the daughter of the late African National Congress president Albert Luthuli and coordinator of the South Africa Peace Education Program, was the key speaker for a public hearing in the city of Orlando, Florida. Luthuli-Gcabashe spoke against U.S. support for apartheid and called for the full divestment of Orlando's pension fund as part of the prolonged campaign by anti-apartheid protestors beginning in 1985. It was just one of many cries against apartheid in Orlando that year. But why Orlando? What did the home of Walt Disney World offer the coordinator of the South Africa Peace Education Program? This essay will analyze the anti-apartheid movements in Central Florida in an attempt to illustrate the growing popular support for such movements among citizen activists in the 1980s. Particular focus will be paid to the issue of divestment, protests, and public action that called for institutions and city governments to remove themselves from financially supporting the apartheid regime. These movements made use of mass mobilization along with public support from the local communities, religious leaders, and politicians. While much of this debate would focus on the financial versus the moral, the challenges and successes of such movements highlight not only the city of Orlando's evolution beyond simply the home of "The Mouse," but also the underlying issues of race, human rights, and mass protest in the late twentieth century. Such movements were representative of a wave of public support that dominated the 1980s and acted as a small but crucial component in the eventual toppling of one of the greatest human rights abusers of the twentieth century.

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