OUTSMARTING APARTHEID: An Oral History of United States–South Africa Cultural and Educational Exchange, 1960–1999

  • Dan Whitman


Outsmarting Apartheid is an oral history of educational and cultural exchange programs conducted by the United States Government with citizens of South Africa during the apartheid period.  The “OA†collection, published in one volume by the University Press of the State University of New York in April of 2014, conveys the stories of those who administered the programs, as well as those who benefitted, during three troubled decades of South African history.  The exchanges involved some 2-3000 participants during a dark period of social unrest and institutionalized injustices. Quietly in the background, U.S. diplomats and their South African colleagues bent rules and stretched limits imposed by the apartheid regime. Collectively they played cat-and-mouse games to outsmart the regime through conniving and bravado. 


The author’s year as executive director of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (Arlington, Virginia), 2006-07, provided a methodology and archiving structure forming the basis of the interviews, conducted over a two-year period in the United States and South Africa.


There was little optimism at the time for South Africa’s political or social future during the 1960-1990 period.  After Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 and during his presidency of 1995-99, the country discovered rich cadres from within, of intellectuals, artists, journalists, scientists, and political leaders prepared to take on the task of constructing the New South Africa. In no small measure, these exchange programs contributed to the quick and sudden realization of suppressed wishes and aspirations for a majority of South Africa’s citizens -- of all ethnic and racial backgrounds.