When the Boycott Began to Bite

Christabel Gurney describes the origins of the British movement to oppose apartheid.

On June 26th, 1959, a group of South African exiles and their British supporters met in London’s Holborn Hall to call for a boycott of fruit, cigarettes and other goods imported from South Africa. The boycott got off to a slow start, but by the following March shopkeepers were being asked to stop selling South African products, the TUC, Labour, Liberal and Communist parties were backing the campaign, and twenty- two local authorities had banned South African fruit from their schools and canteens. On March 9th, 1960, Labour Party leader Hugh Gaitskell went on television to ask viewers not to buy South African goods.

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