Artists and Activism: Black Voices of Resistance and the Cultural Boycott of South Africa

Jonathan R Freeman, Purdue University


This dissertation examines the transnational role that African American recording artists played from 1977 to 1987, as it relates to the cultural boycott in Apartheid South Africa. This specific time period allows me to focus on the anti-Apartheid era and to understand the role of Black recording artists and music. While literature and history has been predominantly used to evaluate this period of civil unrest, this study focuses on the political utilization of music and performance as a form of counter-protest against one of the most brutal systems of racial segregation. The cultural boycott of South Africa was an effort supported by various groups attempting to create a democratic state in the country, in the belief that visits by popular musicians legitimized Apartheid and oppression. There is limited scholarly research on the value and relevance of Black recording music as a humanistic and artistic transformation for Black South Africans in their own battles for racial equity, self-determination, and racial identity, leading to Black empowerment. With this research, I argue that Black recording artists played an important role in dismantling South Africa’s Apartheid regime. As a result, this dissertation offers a critical exploration of the discourses about African American recording artists who both performed—and refused to perform — in Sun City, a segregated Las Vegas-style luxury tourist resort located in Bophuthatswana, a Bantustan (a Black homeland) in South Africa. Additionally, this analysis will provide an opportunity to acknowledge and examine the transnational and global role that marginalized artists of color have played in promoting racial justice, political, and socio-economic justice in another country, while facing racism and discrimination in their own homeland.




Fouche, Purdue University.

Subject Area

African American Studies|American studies|African history

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