Eddie Daniels, right, with his friend Nelson Mandela.
Eddie Daniels, right, with his friend Nelson Mandela.
Eddie Daniels, author and former South African anti-apartheid activist, will speak at Luther College at 12:15 and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, in Room 206 of Valders Hall of Science.

The lecture, "Being a South African Anti-apartheid Activist," is open to the public with no charge for admission and is sponsored by Luther's Africana studies department.

Daniels grew up in District 6, a "coloured" area of Cape Town in the shadow of Table Mountain. The district was an impoverished area where a child was lucky to grow to adulthood. It later became famous when the apartheid government of South Africa bulldozed down all the houses and turned the area over to white development.

Though legally classified as "coloured" by the apartheid government (because of his English and African ancestors), Daniels writes, "I take exception to being referred to as 'Coloured' as I see myself as a South African. If I must be referred to in terms of colour then I prefer the term 'black.'"

Daniels frequently climbed Table Mountain, sometimes rescuing other climbers who found themselves trapped. He worked on a whaling ship and then in the mines before opening a photography studio with a friend. He joined the Liberal Party, because it was the only political party open to all races. It was one of the first political parties banned for that reason.



Protest

To protest the oppression and injustice of the apartheid regime, Daniels and others in the Liberal Party began sabotaging government utilities. Daniels was captured and imprisoned on Robben Island for 15 years for this activity. While in prison, he befriended Nelson Mandela, leader of the African National Congress (ANC).

In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom (1994), Mandela, who served as president of South Africa from 1994-99, recalled his first meeting with Daniels in prison: "Shortly after we started working at the quarry (1964), we were joined in Section B by a number of other prominent political prisoners ... [including] Eddie Daniels, a member of the Liberal Party, who had been convicted of sabotage operations undertaken by the African Resistance Movement, a small sabotage group composed of members of the Liberal Party. Eddie was to become one of my greatest friends in prison."

Nelson praised Daniels for his "loyalty and courage, his sense of humor and justice, as well as total commitment to the struggle of the prisoners for the eradication of injustice and for the betterment of their conditions."



After prison

Fifteen years after entering prison, Daniels was released. His movements were still limited because he was under a banning order that allowed him to only meet with one person at a time.

He was able to get around these orders to court Eleanor, a white woman he had met prior to his imprisonment who supported him despite his warning about how tainted she would become associating with him.

They were married twice-once by a minister when the Mixed Marriages Act outlawed their union and again by the law after apartheid was finally overthrown in 1994.

Daniels has published a book, "There & Back: Robben Island 1964-1979," which details his experiences as an activist and his years spent in prison.

Daniels, who spends much of his time visiting schools and passing along his story to students, encourages students to stay in school, emphasizing the importance of education.

He is currently on a national speaking tour in the United States.