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Historia

On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X

Abstract

COUPER, Scott Everett. South Africa's historiographic conflation: Comparing and contrasting the memories of King and Malcolm X with Luthuli and Mandela. Historia [online]. 2014, vol.59, n.2, pp.289-308. ISSN 2309-8392.

Biographer Manning Marable argues that the "tendency of historical revisionism" posthumously interprets Malcolm X "through the powerful lens of Martin Luther King, Jr" and in doing so, is "unfair" to both. A similar dynamic can be observed within the South African context when Nelson Mandela is interpreted "through the powerful lens" of Albert Luthuli. The conflation is exacerbated when Luthuli is likewise "interpreted through the powerful lens" of Mandela; that for which each stood is inaccurately attributed to the other. Luthuli is wrongly portrayed as a supporter of armed revolution and Mandela is wrongly portrayed as an ideological descendant of Luthuli (of the same ilk as King and Mohandas Gandhi). King and Malcolm X differed on the tactical and moral utility of violence in the struggle for human rights as did Luthuli and Mandela. As political rivals, Malcolm X politically undermined King and Mandela politically undermined Luthuli. The author compares and contrasts King and Malcolm X's respective views to develop themes related to the efficacy of pan-Africanism, violence and communism and identifies parallel themes in Luthuli and Mandela's views. The recent revelation following Mandela's death that he held membership in the South African Communist Party and served on its Central Committee during the early 1960s adds to the relevance of further examining how these icons are remembered and what role they played in South Africa's liberation from oppression.

Keywords : Martin Luther King; Jnr; Malcolm X; Albert John Luthuli; Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela; hagiography; historiography; African National Congress; South African Communist Party; Nobel Peace Prize; pan-Africanism; communism; violence/non-violence; apartheid.

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