The Guardian: The History of South Africa's Extraordinary Anti-Apartheid Newspaper


In this fascinating history of the Guardian, South Africa’s famous anti-apartheid newspaper, James Zug tells the story of a political publication that not only reported events but also helped to shape them. Between 1937 and 1963, the Guardian was the sole voice of dissent in the South African media, and Zug shows us how it played an essential rolein the struggle to end apartheid. 
     Combining a scholar’s attention to facts with a journalist's sense of...

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In this fascinating history of the Guardian, South Africa’s famous anti-apartheid newspaper, James Zug tells the story of a political publication that not only reported events but also helped to shape them. Between 1937 and 1963, the Guardian was the sole voice of dissent in the South African media, and Zug shows us how it played an essential rolein the struggle to end apartheid. 
     Combining a scholar’s attention to facts with a journalist's sense of the dramatic, Zug recreates a tumultuous and dangerous era. The newspaper's telephones were tapped, articles were censored, and staff members were jailed and deported. The apartheid regime banned the paper three times, charged it with high treason, and could only silence it completely, in 1963, by placing the entire staff under house arrest. As Zug explains, the Guardian persisted through the harassment and torment because the paper's staff knew the significance of their work: "We not only record the struggle for freedom, we are actively participating in it." When wages were kept low, when workers went on strikes, and when fascism reared its head in South Africa, the Guardian spoke up. At its height, the paper sold more than 50,000 copies a week nationally, with four bureaus across the country. 
     As Nelson Mandela, head of the African National Congress (ANC), led the movement to end apartheid, he issued messages through the paper. Perhaps the newspaper's most significant accomplishment, Zug writes, was uniting the ANC and the South African Communist Party. The Guardian translated Marxism into an African idiom for the ANC, bringing together the two factions that propelled the liberation struggle into a mass movement.
     This highly readable work is more than a perceptive look at an influential paper. It is a testament to the power of the printed word in ending injustice and changing the course of history.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870138102
  • Publisher: Michigan State University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2007
  • Series: Hidden Histories Series
  • Pages: 371
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

James Zug is a historian and journalist with an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University. He is the author of Squash: A History of the Gameand American Traveler: The Life and Adventures of John Ledyard, the Man Who Dreamed of Walking the World. As a journalist, he has written for the Atlantic Monthly and Tin House. His book reviews have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Outside magazine and the Chicago Tribune.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations     ix
The Guardian Masthead     xi
Prologue     1
A Very Live Menace: A Cape Town Childhood, 1937-1939     9
Forty Thousand No Less: The War Years, 1939-1945     37
Brass and Water: Departures, 1945-1950     71
The Carry-On: Bannings, 1948-1954     101
Fleeting Moments of Happiness: The Democracy Decade, 1950-1959     139
The Bloody Pole on the Hill: Sharpeville and Beyond, 1960-1963     185
Epilogue     223
Acknowledgments     231
Notes     237
Index     351
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2008

    South Africa's provocative and effective newspaper

    Between its founding in 1937 and its demise in 1963 upon being outlawed by South Africa's apartheid government, the South African newspaper 'The Guardian' went by seven different names others among these were the Clarion 'early 1950s', People's World 'also early 1950s', and New Age '1954-62'. Though its name changed, its definition of its role remained the same. Opposed to all dictatorial, totalitarian governments, the newspaper opposed fascism in Africa, in neighboring Namibia in particular, as well as the entrenched apartheid government in South Africa. After World War II ended and decolonization was happening in places around the world, the Guardian focused its coverage and editorials on South Africa's system of apartheid. In so doing, it incurred the wrath of successive apartheid governments so that it was continually harassed by government agents and on occasion banned by the government. In its early years, the Guardian's opposition to fascism and racism automatically aligned it with Communism. The first time it was banned outright was when the South African government passed the Suppression of Communist Act 'SCA' in the early 1950s which among other things, would make much of the regular content of the Guardian illegal, subjecting its writers to arrest and jail terms. Officially disassociating itself from the Communist Party, the Guardian still faced a crisis of survival in that it lost its core readership and major sources of funding. Nonetheless, as a staff writer Abbie Sachs remarked, 'The [SCA] actually did us a big favor because it meant we couldn't use the jargon and ever-ready phrases [of communist ideology]...We were compelled to use more substantive ways of thinking and writing....' In this transformation, the Guardian not only sharpened its reporting on events in South Africa, but developed contacts with indigenous anti-apartheid forces, some of which were growing increasingly militant in the face of the apartheid government's intransigence and policies of imprisonment and torture. Along with these groups working politically and in some cases militarily, the Guardian became a catalyst for change in South Africa. The story of the survival and role of the Guardian is written in conjunction with political events in South Africa leading to the overthrow of apartheid. Zug also writes about the work and influence of major and some secondary individuals connected with the paper. With a background as a historian as well as a journalist, author Zug writes an enduring history of this notable newspaper.

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