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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Freedom Charter

A document drawn up by the Congress Alliance* in the mid 1950s when across the board a new spirit of activism had taken hold of black people who had suffered under increasingly discriminatory legislation since the NP*'s accession to power in 1948. A Defiance Campaign* was launched by the alliance in 1952 and in addition to plans to embark on a programme of a mass action and civil disobedience, it was decided that a Freedom Charter should be drawn up. In an impressive initiative the alliance sent delegates out to the people countrywide to identify their interests and grievances. The document that was eventually compiled committed the Congress Alliance to work towards a multi-racial democratic South Africa. At the Congress of the People, a huge rally held in 1955 at Kliptown that was attended by more than 3 000 delegates, the Freedom Charter was duly adopted. In various forms the charter occupied a central place in the minds of those opposed to apartheid. It was strongly socialist-democratic in character and advocated the redistribution of wealth and land so that the basic inequality in South African society could be rectified. Although the charter made it very clear that whites would not be privileged, it accorded them the same basic rights as other South Africans.

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.