Historiographic Monograph Essay - Essay Prowess

Historiographic Monograph Essay


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Historiographic Essay

Summary of each monograph

The book, “Loosing the bonds: The United States and South Africa in the Apartheid Years” the author, Robert Kinloch Massie traces the course of the unbelievable process especially in relation to the role of the role that United States played during the South Africa`s troubled past. The book is important to not only the historians, but also any other person who might be interested in learning the role of morality, ethics, and grass-roots movements contribute in the international and national economic and political life. In addition, the author of this book has also written about the American policy towards South Africa during the apartheid era and has extensively and authoritatively detailed the movement by liberal activists to push American corporations to disinvest during this period. Massie has also traced the gradual growth of the campaign to encourage institutional investors such as universities, churches, and later state and local governments to sell stocks of companies that are operating in South Africa as a way of pressuring them to disinvest[1]. However, though institutional divestment strategy was perceived to be a dubious strategy by many, it contributed to significant disinvestment, shift in corporate thinking, and more importantly, the south African`s decision to democratize.

On the other hand, the author of the book, Race for Sanctions: African Americans Against Apartheid, 1946-1994, Francis Njubi Nesbitt presents the involvement of the transnational movement that aimed at ending the South African Apartheid, which was a legal system of economic, cultural, and political segregation that empowered white minority rule. The author has particularly recognized the efforts of African American organizations especially the Free South Africa Movement, TransAfrica, and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) when it comes to ending the apartheid rule[2].

In a review of Nebitt`s book which was done by Eunice A. Charles, supports the efforts of the anti-apartheid tactics that were employed in South Africa in order to discourage the issue of racial discrimination[3]. For example, the aspect of issuing economic sanctions against the South Africans left most of the advocators of the Apartheid rule with limited options since they could not have markets to sell the various products that the country produced. Similarly, in her book, Massie also revealed a number of strategies that the American government embraced and implemented in order to discourage apartheid rule in South Africa, including issuing economic sanctions and the divestment movements.

Moreover, Nesbitt`s book focused on the use of African Americans as activists to push for the abolition of the apartheid rule in South Africa. Apparently, it is ironic that the American government used Black subjects to spearhead anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, whereas the major victims of the Apartheid rule were the whites. Everyone would have expected the American whites to be in the forefront in the anti-apartheid movements rather than disguising themselves as African Americans. In contrast, Massie`s book reveals that the American government to a large extent used institutions to push for the abolition of the apartheid rule in South Africa. Some of the institutions that were used were not limited to churches, universities, and American corporates. Massie revealed the intellectual framework of the political and moral political revolt in the U.S. campuses and churches against close participation with the South African apartheid regime. For example, Massie starts the book by revealing a lengthy speech that Robert Kennedy made to a huge gathering of white university students at the University of Cape Town in June 1966. In the speech, Kennedy stated that, “I come here today (referring to the host), because my deep interests in and affection for a land settled by the Dutch in the 17th century, a land taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued and relations with whom are a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on a hostile frontier; a land which was once an importer of slaves and must now struggle to wipe out the last traces of that form of bondage[4].” Kennedy`s visit and the speech had a lot of importance to the opponents of the apartheid regime, especially due to the fact that it encouraged them to continue fighting against the megalithic political, military and economic power of the state. In contrast, there is nowhere the whites were directly and openly involved in condemning the apartheid regime in the Nesbitt`s book. Instead, in Nesbitt`s book, the African American and Black Caucus were being supported by the American government to oppose the apartheid regime. For example, In Nesbitt`s book, the American government supported the call of Nelson Mandela concerning the end of racial policies in South Africa.

Moreover, in Massies`s book, the American government had less interest in using Black activists as a strategy of ending the apartheid regime in South Africa, especially due to the fact that the use of Black Caucus had failed to bear fruits for a number of decades since it was first embraced in the 1940s. This style was pinpointed by many as an old-style of structural Marxist approach, making the American government to embrace additional and an alternative strategy of divestment and disinvestment of Institutions in South Africa. In Contrast, in Nesbitt`s book, the use of Black Caucus and African American activists was high embraced as an effective strategy.

Moreover, after the end of the Apartheid regime, each of the author have stipulated his unique reason for the concerning the factors which contributed to the dismantling of apartheid. For Massie, the apartheid was largely brought down to a large extent by the mobilization of ideas which were against the forcible separation of people on cultural or racial grounds[5]. In contrasts, Nesbitt believed that the end of the apartheid regime was as a result of the economic sanctions that were applied in South Africa as well as the efforts and collaboration of Black activists.

In both books, the authors maintain that the struggle for the end of Apartheid regime in South Africa started a number of decades ago. For example, Nesbitt reveals that the American effort of pushing for the abolition of racial discrimination in South African started in 1940s and African Americans greatly contributed towards this struggle. Similarly, Massie has also revealed the use of Black activist way back in 1940s in order to restore democracy in South Africa.  In addition, in both books, the success for dismantling the apartheid regime in South Africa has also been stipulated.

However, it is unfortunate and ironic that the American government was condemning the South Africans due to the implementation of the apartheid whereas the same country had been practicing racial discrimination to a large extent. Actually, the issue of racial discrimination in American during the 17th, 18th and 19th century was so rampant, clear and open that every black person living in the U.S. at that time was not being spared at all. Racial discrimination in the U.S. was disguised in terms of slavery, where the African Americans were being treated as lesser beings by their white counterparts. It seems like the American government had been speaking double standards especially due to the fact that it had been propagating racial discrimination in the past and then proceeds to impose economic sanction in South Africa during the apartheid era. I strongly believe the slavery and discrimination of the African Americans during the 18th and 19th was the worst since it contributed to the oppression, denial of human rights, and even murder of the blacks. At that time, the Africans did not react the way the Americans reacted to the South Africans during the apartheid era.

I also believe that racial, political and cultural discrimination in South Africa did not end immediately after the installation of the first independent government in 1994. This is just the same way that slavery and the rights of African American in the United States was not immediately achieved after the end of the civil war.  For example, the rights of the former slaves to participate in general elections as well as in attaining basic education was not implemented immediately after the civil war. This is due to the fact that political tensions and hidden forms of racial and cultural discrimination have been within the grass root communities even today.


Eunice A. Charles. 2004. Reviewed Work(s): Race for Sanctions: African Americans against Apartheid, 1946-1994 by Francis Njubi Nesbitt. The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 37, No. 3 (2004), pp. 567-568

  1. H. Taylor. 1998. Reviewed Work(s): Loosing the Bonds: The United States and South Africa in the Apartheid Years by Robert Kinloch Massie. International Journal, Vol. 53, No. 4 (Autumn, 1998), pp. 787-788

Paul B. Rich. 2000. Reviewed Work(s): Loosing the Bonds: The United States and South Africa in the Apartheid Years by Robert Kinloch Massie. The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 33, No. 1 (2000), pp. 175-176

Robert Vinson. 2005. Reviewed Work(s): Race for Sanctions: African Americans against Apartheid, 1946-1994 by Francis Njubi Nesbitt. The Journal of American History, Vol. 92, No. 2 (Sep., 2005), pp. 696-697