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Activism and Protests at Davidson College

A guide to archival collections and materials related to the history of student activism at Davidson College.

Davidson Students Against Apartheid

Campus conversations about the issue of apartheid in South Africa began as early as 1978, as the Board of Trustees' Finance committee began reviewing the college's investment policies ("College reviews investment policy," The Davidsonian, November 3, 1978). However, it wasn't until the mid-1980s that Davidson students began to formally organize around the issue of apartheid. Davidson Students Against Apartheid (or Students Against Apartheid) was a student organization active from 1986 to 1989 that campaigned for the college's divestment from companies conducting business in South Africa. Students Against Apartheid actively demonstrated on Davidson's campus, including building shanties on Chambers lawn, holding teach-ins and petitioning campus administration to modify the college's investment policy and to divest from companies doing business in South Africa.

"Free South Africa" shanty in front of Chambers (Photo 27-0004)

"Free South Africa" shanty in front of Chambers Building (Photograph 27-0004)

Davidson Students Against Apartheid partnered with other local organizations, including Davidson Alumni Against Apartheid and Charlotteans For a Free Southern Africa. For more about these organizations, visit the African Activist Archive Project and search by name. Here there are descriptions of the organizations and some digitized materials related to them. 

Coverage in The Davidsonian

Comic from October 23, 1987 issue of the Davidsonian on the topic of apartheid.

Image from October 23, 1987 issue of The Davidsonian


Campus publications, such as student newspaper The Davidsonian, covered events related to student activism and campus issues. For more information on the activities of Davidson Students Against Apartheid and the issue of apartheid on campus, browse digitized issues of The Davidsonian, online and available here. Individual issues are searchable by keyword.

Select articles related to Davidson Students Against Apartheid include:

"Connette doesn't believe Davidson should invest in Discrimination" (February 2, 1979, pgs.1 and 11)

"Student built shanty town torn down by administration" (April 4, 1986, pg. 1) 

"Open Forum debates Davidson Divestment controversy" (October 3, 1986, pg. 1)

"Students Against Apartheid Urge Divestment" (May 1, 1987, pgs. 11-12) 

"Anti-apartheid groups "Teach-Ins" over Homecoming" (October 11, 1988, pg. 2) 

"Davidson Divests From Category II Firms in South Africa" (November 8, 1990, pg. 1)

Archival Materials

Archival materials are the institutional records of Davidson College from its establishment in 1837 to the present day. Included within the collections are president's office records, academic department files, and student organization records. Listed below is a selection of relevant collections related to the college's divestment from South Africa. Collections are organized by record group, along with a brief description of the collection's contents, and are hyperlinked to the collection's digital finding aid.

Planning and Institutional Research, Records, 1981- (RG 2-5-1)

Description: This office coordinates the College's strategic and facilities planning and oversees the gathering and reporting of data for reports to government agencies, publications,and other organizations. Included in these records are administrative files that address the question of investments in South Africa.

Vice President for Business and Finance, Administrative Records, 1930 - (RG 4-1-1)

Description: This office coordinates activities related to the financial management of the College. These files include records from offices of the Treasurer and Business Manager. Subjects covered in these files include correspondence related to campus buildings, policies and procedures, and college investments in South Africa.

College Relations, Administrative Files (RG 5-1)

Description: This office coordinates the College's communications with external constituencies, including alumni, parents, friends, business and industries, and the college community related to the goals, objectives, news, and events of Davidson College. Included in these records is a folder entitled "South Africa - Position with Respect to Apartheid, 1985-1991."

College Communications, Publicity Files - Subjects (RG 5-7-3b)

Description: This collection consists of publicity and information files compiled on campus related topic. The files may contain newspaper clippings, press releases, and photographs. Included in these records is a folder entitled "South Africa, 1986-1988."

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