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November 3: The Anti-Apartheid Congressman

November 3, 2013
10187470-largeRepresentative Howard Wolpe, who co-authored the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 with Ron Dellums and other liberals in Congress, was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1939. His signature piece of legislation, which imposed economic sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid government (and had significant impact on two major corporations in Wolpe’s home district in Michigan, Kellogg and Upjohn), was twice vetoed by President Ronald Reagan, but as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Wolpe managed to override Reagan and turn the bill into law. Wolpe, who held a Ph.D in political science from MIT, represented southwestern Michigan in Congress from 1978 to 1992 until redistricting iced him out. After his seven terms, he continued to advocate for peace and justice in Africa, serving as Special Envoy to Africa’s Great Lakes region, which includes Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania, and supporting peace talks that helped end, or at least pause, long-standing civil wars in Burundi and the Congo. Wolpe died of heart disease at age 71 in 2011. “The white minority regime will abandon apartheid, and will agree to enter into negotiations with the credible black leadership of the majority of the population, only at that point when it concludes that it has more to lose than to gain by attempting to hold on to apartheid.” —Howard Wolpe
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