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Independent Lens: Have You Heard from Johannesburg?

Posted on 05 Jan 2012

Photo of Bishop Desmond Tutu speaking to crowd

This five-part series chronicles the unprecedented international movement of citizen activists who fought for three decades to bring down the brutal, racist system of apartheid in South Africa when their governments would not. By Connie Field.

Learn more about "Independent Lens: Have You Heard from Johannesburg?" at their website &rawuo;

Be sure to watch! "Independent Lens: Have You Heard from Johannesburg?" premiering Sunday, January 15 at 10 p.m.

Episode Guide

  • Road to ResistanceAs the U.N. adopts the Declaration of Human Rights, South Africa heads in the opposite direction and implements apartheid. A mass movement is born, then crushed and Nelson Mandela is jailed for life. The future of the movement is now on the shoulders of Oliver Tambo, who escapes into exile and begins a 30-year journey to engage the world in the struggle to bring democracy to South Africa.
    "Road to Resistance" airs Sunday, January 15 at 10 p.m.
  • The New Generation It is youth, both inside and outside, who next join the growing movement against apartheid. Buoyed by new support in western countries, Oliver Tambo returns to the United Nations to try to convince the world body to sanction South Africa. His efforts gain new public support as the brutal suppression of a youth uprising in the South African township of Soweto and the murder of freedom fighter Steve Biko turn South Africa from a country into a cause, a worldwide emblem of injustice. A significant victory is won when the United Nations issues a mandatory arms embargo: the first in history. But South Africa's strongest trading partners in the West still will not sanction it economically. And as Tambo heads to Zambia to minister to the ANC's growing guerrilla army, a bloodbath seems inevitable. But even as the most powerful western governments refuse to heed Tambo's calls for cultural and economic boycotts, the citizens of those western nations will help turn the tide.
    "The New Generation" airs Sunday, January 15 at 11 p.m.
  • From Selma to Soweto Long one of South Africa's most important and powerful allies, the United States becomes a key battleground in the anti-apartheid movement as African-Americans lead the charge to change the government's policy toward the apartheid regime. Strengthened through years of grassroots organizing during the civil rights movement, black leaders and their allies take on U.S. foreign policy on South Africa, directing campaigns in corporate boardrooms, universities, embassies, and finally in the U.S. Congress itself, where a stunning victory is won against the formidable opposition of President Ronald Reagan. African- Americans alter U.S. foreign policy for the first time in history, and the U.S. -- once the backbone of support for apartheid South Africa as its ally in the Cold War - finally imposes sanctions on Pretoria. European sanctions follow, and with them, the political isolation of the apartheid regime.
    "From Selma to Soweto" airs Sunday, January 22 at 10:30 p.m.
  • The Bottom Line This is the story of the first-ever international grassroots campaign to successfully use economic pressure to help bring down a government. Recognizing the apartheid regime's dependence on its financial connections to the West, citizens all over the world, from employees of Polaroid to a General Motors director, from student account-holders in Barclay's Bank to consumers who boycott Shell gas, all refuse to let business with South Africa go on as usual. Boycotts and divestment campaigns bring the anti-apartheid movement into the lives and communities of people around the world, helping everyday people understand and challenge Western economic support for apartheid. Faced with attacks at home and growing chaos in South Africa, international companies pull out in a mass exodus, causing a financial crisis in the now-isolated South Africa and making it clear that the days of the apartheid regime are numbered.
    "The Bottom Line" airs Sunday, January 22 at 11:30 p.m.
  • Free at Last Diving into the heart of the conflict, South Africans tell the story of the most important effort in the anti- apartheid campaign of the 80's: the alliance that brought together freedom fighters in South Africa as never before. A mass movement gains unprecedented momentum when three generations of resistance fighters band together as The United Democratic Front (UDF). Faced with growing international isolation, the apartheid government tries to win allies and convince the world of the merit of its piecemeal reforms even as it struggles to suppress open revolt, at times using savage secret tactics. The UDF protests climax in a fierce campaign of defiance, and internationally, Nelson Mandela becomes a household name as the campaign to free him ignites a worldwide crusade. Caught between an unstoppable internal mass movement and ongoing international pressure, the apartheid regime is finally forced to the negotiating table and at last lifts the decades-long bans on the ANC. After 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela is released, sparking a global celebration as he tours the world to thank all. After 30 years in exile, Oliver Tambo is finally able to return to South Africa. But the struggle has taken a heavy toll on him, and he will die one year before his comrade, Nelson Mandela, is elected the first black president of a democratic South Africa.
    "Free at Last" airs Sunday, January 29 at 10 p.m.
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