During the nineteen fifties and sixties the vast majority of former European colonies in Africa achieved their independence from their erstwhile "mother countries." Viewed continentally, this can be said to have dated from 1952, when the Free Officers Movement of Egypt ousted King Farouk and created a Republic. South of the Sahara, the first African State to achieve independence was Ghana, known as the Gold Coast during the colonial period, whose first independent Prime Minister was Kwame Nkrumah, who led his fellow Ghanaians to freedom in 1957. From 1958-1961 a spate of other territories followed suit, seeking to disengage from the rule of Britain, France, Spain and Belgium. Yet there were holdouts. The Portuguese-ruled colonies of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau, and the white-minority ruled South Africa were among exceptions to the pattern of "decolonization" which had been set in motion during 1960, "Africa year" when British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan declared that "the winds of change are blowing across the African continent." South Africa, Portugal and in 1965 the small but minerally-rich polity of Southern Rhodesia made clear their opposition to African majority rule, and showed a willingness to use violence to prevent this from occurring. While most Africans would have preferred not to have to resort to the expedient of taking up arms, the example of the bloody Algerian Revolution against French minority rule was still fresh in many minds by the early nineteen sixties. Starting in 1960, an uprising occurred in Angola against Portuguese rule. This took shape four years after the founding of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, whose Portuguese acronym was MPLA. Later on in that decade similar movements arose in Guinea-Bissau, the PAIGC, (Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) and the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo). 1960 was also the year that the armed struggle began in earnest in South Africa, under the auspices of the African National Congress and its rival, the Pan-Africanist Congress. By 1965, with Southern Rhodesia's UDI or Unilateral Declaration of Independence, Africans seeking a voice in Rhodesian politics gravitated to the Zimbabwe African People's Union and later, its own schismatic rival, the Zimbabwe African National Union. By the late sixties, both groups would mount military wings which took to the bush to fight against Rhodesia's brutal security forces. The nineteen sixties in Southern Africa, therefore, became synonymous with the era of liberation wars or armed struggle.
The posters in this collection represent the intensity of the conflicts being waged in those years, when combatants and their supporters weighed in for the long haul. This exhibit represents a cross-section of politically engaged poster art from the African Revolution. While not comprehensive, it is evocative of the spirit of those times and the commitment of supporters of African majority rule.
—David H. Anthony, Associate Professor of History
This exhibit also features material from Special Collections on the anti-apartheid/divestment movement at UCSC, and related books from the University Library’s collection. We would like to thank the Library’s Special Collections and Preservation departments for their assistance, and library staff member Cheryl Dandridge for the loan of several books from her personal collection.
—Irene Reti, Library Exhibit Coordinator