10 Films and Songs of the Anti-Apartheid Movement

Here’s a look at moments in pop culture that captured the fight for freedom in South Africa.

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Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela

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We gathered 10 moments in film and song that capture the essence of the anti-apartheid movement.

1. Invictus

The 2009 film starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon documents Nelson Mandela in his first term as president of South Africa as he enlists the national rugby team to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Mandela’s embrace of the mostly white team set the example for reconciliation that was needed to help heal and unite the country.

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2. The Special AKA, “Free Nelson Mandela”

The British band’s 1984 hit, “Free Nelson Mandela,” has been praised as one of the best protest songs of the era.

3. Cry Freedom

The 1987 drama stars Denzel Washington as South African activist Stephen Biko and Kevin Kline as journalist Donald Woods, who is forced to flee the country after attempting to investigate the death of Biko, who died in police custody.

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4. Miriam Makeba, “Ndodemnyama”

Nicknamed “Mama Africa,” Makeba railed against apartheid. She penned many songs for the resistance movement, including “Ndodemnyama.”

5. Endgame

The 2009 film starring Clarke Peters and William Hurt is based on the final days of apartheid in South Africa and the covert discussions leading up to it.

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6. Peter Gabriel, “Biko”

Gabriel’s “Biko” reflects on the murder of Stephen Biko. The leader of South Africa’s black consciousness movement, Biko died in 1977 while in police custody.

7. Catch a Fire

The 2006 drama, starring Derek Luke and Tim Robbins, depicts terrorism in apartheid-era South Africa, revolving around a policeman and a young man who carry out solo attacks against the regime.

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8. Stetsasonic, “A.F.R.I.C.A”

Stetsasonic’s song “A.F.R.I.C.A” made an urgent call to black Americans to be involved the anti-apartheid movement.

9. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

The 2013 drama starring Idris Elba and Naomie Harris traces Nelson Mandela’s life journey from childhood in a rural village to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

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10. Gil Scott-Heron, “Johannesburg”

Poet Scott-Heron is most famous for his spoken word masterpiece, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” which attacked American consumerism and commercialism during a time of racial strife. Similarly, “Johannesburg” served as a call to action to organize against racism in South Africa and abroad.

Diamond Sharp is an editorial fellow at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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