About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL)

In the 1940s the ANC* was revitalized. It became a mass movement, employing more assertive, militaristic methods of struggle. The change in attitude was due in no small measure to the influence of the ANC Youth League. This group was formed in 1944 by graduates of Fort Hare, a college for Africans at Alice, a town in the eastern Cape. Prominent members, who were later to become senior ANC leaders, included Anton Lembede, its first president, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. Spurred on by these young men the ANC became more militant, particularly after 1948 when the National Party* (NP) was voted into power by the white electorate and began implementing strict apartheid measures. In 1949 the Youth League was able to put pressure on the ANC leadership to adopt the Programme of Action which included mass resistance tactics such as boycotts, strikes and civil disobedience. Following this, again with Youth League prodding, the ANC launched a Defiance Campaign* in 1952 which boosted country-wide membership and mapped the way ahead for the liberation struggle, leading to the adoption of a Freedom Charter* in 1956. Members of the Youth League were prominent in the ANC-dominated Congress Alliance,* uniting anti-apartheid resistance across the board. In the early 1990s Peter Mokaba, the ANCYL president, played an active role in deliberations.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.