The Engineer of History



When Nelson Mandela died, I was just finishing my dissertation.  That event, along with the Shelby County Supreme Court case gave me an idea to write a conclusion that was a bit more about today, so I spent a weekend and put together a final chapter that tried to examine the different ways that history intersects with politics in America and in South Africa.  In the end, it just didn’t fit with what I was writing about, so I decided not to include it. As a result, I  never put it through the process of revision and refinement.  But, I didn’t want to just chuck it, so it’s here.

Though it was written to be the last chapter in a 400-page project, you don’t need to know much to follow along.  Basically: 1) Hendrik Verwoerd was the man who built the South African apartheid state, 2) Nelson Mandela came to power after elections in 1994, and 3) George Wallace was the pro-segregation governor of Alabama who had a late-in-life conversion, and my larger project compares the lives and circumstances of the two men. 

It’s long, so I don’t expect too many people to read it, but here you go… [yeah, there are typos and other minor errors; I never put it through proofreading]


In the twenty-nine years between the death of Hendrik Verwoerd and the ascension of Nelson Mandela to the Presidency of South Africa, much had changed.  The immense task of explaining the slow death and sudden and unexpected collapse of apartheid cannot be fully accomplished here.  For the moment, suffice to note that by the late 1970s, the rapid economic expansion that South Africa had experienced under Verwoerd and Vorster had grinded to a halt, and as the subsequent decade progressed, it become increasingly obvious that the nation needed black labor and had to expand black purchasing power in order for its increasingly insular and ostracized economy to sustain itself.  This reality, combined with the massive costs of maintaining an enormous security apparatus complete with sophisticated weaponry and a nuclear arsenal, was simply too much to bear.  By the late 1980s, when F.W. De Klerk assumed the Presidency of the Republic, the well-guarded secret was that the government of South Africa teetered on total economic collapse.  This, combined with the psychic trauma of being seen and referred to as the world’s ugly pariah, anachronistic and mean-spirited, took an immense toll on the nation.  De Klerk led the National Party in making the pragmatic choice to negotiate immediately with the ANC from a position of relative strength rather than to wait until a moment in which it was obvious to all sides that apartheid, at least as then structured and conceptualized, could not stand.

After winning the 1994 elections, Mandela faced pressing concerns that often seemed to be at odds with each other.  He had to stabilize and grow the South African economy and to remake South Africa as a multicultural, open and unified nation in which blacks and whites shared a sense of common destiny but was nonetheless governed by the basic notion of majority rule.  In 1994, the United Nations Human Development Report laid out the complexity of Mandela’s problems.  Blacks owned just 2% of all private-sector assets, and though whites constituted only 13% of the population, they accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total income.  In fact, if white South Africa were an independent nation it would have ranked 24th in the world for standard of living, just below Spain.  Black South Africa would have ranked 123rd, below Lesotho and Vietnam.[1]  In other words, for very practical reasons, Mandela had to win white support.

His efforts to reconcile with conservative Afrikaners were indeed extraordinary.  On inauguration day, he pressed his countrymen to look forward, saying that, “wat is verby is verby,” an Afrikaans phrase meaning, “what is past is past.”[2]  He had learned Afrikaans while imprisoned on Robben Island, and often extolled its beauties as a poetic language, even calling it, “a language of hope and liberation.”[3]  Given that the enforced learning of Afrikaans by black South African schoolchildren had been a major cause of the violent 1976 Soweto uprisings, this was an enormous conciliatory gesture.  As if to make clear that his primary concern was the future, and not the past, he actively urged the ANC not to begin a process of removing statues and monuments and of renaming streets, cities and public buildings and spaces.  He understood much better than most of his black contemporaries the importance that Afrikaners placed on their history and heritage.  Nonetheless, South Africa was not a dictatorship, and the battle over the history of Afrikaners and of their heroes had in fact begun in earnest before Mandela assumed the presidency, the office for which was, incidentally, in the Hendrik Verwoerd Building.[4]

Though Mandela preached tolerance and urged his countrymen to look forward, the prominent and esteemed place that many apartheid-era Afrikaner heroes held was simply too much to abide for most black South Africans.  As the ANC sought to deliver the new dispensation to South Africa, politicians in the ANC made it clear that one name in particular would have to be expunged from the popular presentation of the national narrative: Hendrik Verwoerd.  As actively and vociferously as the National Party had worked to make him a towering figure in South African lore, the new government would seek to remove his image and name from public view and make it plain that Verwoerd was the embodiment of the very evils that the new Rainbow Nation sought to move beyond.

As an organized movement, the effort to get Verwoerd’s name and image removed from public places began rather inauspiciously.  Students at Rand Afrikaans University, a small college founded by the right-wing racist Broederbond the year after Verwoerd’s death to promote Afrikaner nationalism, petitioned to change the name of its HF Verwoerd Library.[5]  Student representative Desmond Thompson noted simply that, “Verwoerd represents fascist ideas about education.  A place like a library, which stores knowledge, should not be named after him.”  Given that Verwoerd had first made his name as an educator and Afrikaner intellectual, and had later written the Bantu Education Act, that the first organized effort to dismantle his legacy occurred at Rand Afrikaans University was particularly poignant.

This debate took place in the rather incendiary moment between the release of Nelson Mandela in February of 1990, and his election to the Presidency in April 1994.  With the future of South Africa very much at stake, all parties –verligte, verkrampte, white, black and Coloured- placed an enormous amount of importance on making sure that the new dispensation would protect their interests, including their understanding of their own identity, past, symbols and heroes.  As blacks became increasingly vociferous about the need to tear down the apartheid heroes’ monuments, they focused particular attention on the man who, more than any other, symbolized the ugliness of apartheid: H.F. Verwoerd.

The radical right took up arms in defense of the Verwoerd legacy, and even managed to cajole verkrampte Conservative Party politicians in the Pretoria city government to begin the process of renaming a major square near the government center H.F. Verwoerd Square.  If the move was designed to protect the legacy and history of Verwoerd, it failed miserably and in fact had the opposite effect.  With tensions high over negotiations concerning the new constitution, the move was seen as, “an inexplicable act of provocation.”[6]  After attempts to negotiate a compromise failed due to Conservative intransigence, the square was instead named after Sammy Marks, a white South African industrialist and financier.

The debate over the renaming of the square soon expanded to include the renaming of the town of Verwoerdburg.  This time, right-wing opposition presented a more vociferous and aggressive defense.  The white separatists group Verenining van Oranjewerkers, founded by H.F. Verwoerd, Jr., promised to bring a halt to, “the long pattern of breaking down the image and work of Dr. Verwoerd.”[7]  Many Afrikaners felt deeply afraid of black reprisals and their place in post-apartheid South Africa. One Afrikaner who penned a letter to the editor in the Pretoria News, feared that, “the removal of names, busts and statues of Dr. Verwoerd from public places [is] the beginning of the destruction of everything that represents Afrikaner history.”[8]

What became clear, though, is that by 1991 the public perception of Verwoerd among whites had changed too. As world attention focused increasingly on South Africa and its bumpy process towards freedom and democracy, Verwoerdburg was seen as a, “name of shame,” and bad for business.[9]  South Africa’s economic future looked bleak, and it seemed the only salvation would come in the form of foreign investment. But, many investors were not keen on pouring money into areas that still had the stink of apartheid about them. By the end of 1991, the quarter-million residents of the city now called Centurion home, and swept away the distasteful association with apartheid’s chief tactician and defender.  With that, the dominoes began to fall, and within three years, Verwoerd’s name and image disappeared from hundreds of roads, dams, airports, civic buildings, awards, hospitals and city squares around South Africa.

By the time Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the nation’s first democratically elected President, Verwoerd had disappeared from just about every aspect of South African public life, with the exception of one oddly prominent holdout: the Parliament and presidential offices in Cape Town.  This state of affairs did not last long, as the ANC quickly got about the business of scrubbing Parliament clean of all reminders of Verwoerd.  Deputy President F.W. De Klerk, the leader of National Party, did not oppose the move, admitting sheepishly that Verwoerd presented a “unique case” that merited expulsion from South African public life.[10]  Parliamentary workers took down his painting, removed his name from street signs and the complex walls, and boxed up the enormous bust of Verwoerd that had stood in the main foyer of Parliament for twenty-two years.[11]  When inquiries were made as to the bust’s whereabouts, a reporter eventually found it, wrapped in plastic, forgotten and put away, in the shabby hallway of a customs house near the Cape Town Waterfront.[12]

Though the government wanted Verwoerd gone, he remained a popular figure among intransigent Afrikaners.  In a remote hamlet called Orania, the role of Hendrik Verwoerd in South Africa led to one of the most poignant moments of the transition from apartheid to democracy.  Situated in the Northern Cape just a few miles from South Africa’s Free State province, Orania exists by design and practice in something of a time warp.  With fewer than a 1,000 residents, it nonetheless has its own flag and prints and mints its own currency, the oran.  As the name suggests, it is meant to hearken back to the Orange Free State, the independent Boer republic that existed from the mid-19th century until it came under British sovereignty at the end of the Second Anglo-Boer War.  Even among politically moderate Afrikaners, the Transvaal and Orange Free State, and the independence and pioneering spirit that they represent to them, have a lingering and powerful romantic appeal.  Much as Americans -particularly in the western states- feel a certain attachment to and respect for the pioneers who hacked out a tough existence on the fringes of Western civilization, so too do many descendants of the old Dutch settlers take pride in the heritage represented by histories of these old Boer republics.

As Orania makes plain, though, these histories are rife with conflicts and complications very much at odds with the vision and mission of the newly inclusive and multicultural Republic of South Africa.  Just as Native-Americans have profound and multitudinous grievances against the pioneer heroes of the American West, so too have the tribes and nations of black South Africa suffered grievously at the hands of Voortrekkers and other white settlers who pushed inward and eastward from the Cape.

The story of Orania begins in 1990, nine months after the release of Nelson Mandela and three-and-a-half years before South Africa’s first full free elections.  Having treated their black and Coloured countrymen so egregiously, many white South Africans feared a descent into Mugabeism in which the new government would expel them from their lands or otherwise exact reprisals and retribution.  Many whites had little faith in an ANC government led by a man they viewed as a terrorist.  As a result, in the early days of the transition, more than half a million white South Africans fled the country.[13]  Carel Boshoff and his wife Anna Verwoerd Boschoff, took a different route.  Together with forty other Afrikaner families, they purchased a plot of windswept rocky land and began construction on Orania, which was to be a citadel holding out against the unwanted changes.

Accompanying Anna was her mother, Betsie Verwoerd, the widow of Hendrik Verwoerd.  Even today, as one drives into Orania one is greeted by a memorial to H.F. Verwoerd, lovingly maintained by his family and admirers.  A nearby museum houses many of the old Prime Minister’s personal effects and various mementos from his days in office.  Though something less than a holy site, Orania was since its inception intended to serve as a place for the unreconstructed Boer to return, if only briefly and whimsically, to what was and what could be again: a pious and self-sustaining Afrikaner homeland that fully embraces the history and accomplishments of the Afrikaner people.  And, to be clear, between its founding in 1990 and 1995, no black visitor had gone to Orania, except for a few truck drivers who had dropped off supplies and then left expeditiously.[14]  As such, when in 1995 one of Hendrik Verwoerd’s oldest antagonists paid a visit, many South Africans did not know what to make of it.

President Nelson Mandela had invited Betsie Verwoerd to attend a lunch at the Presidential Residence along with various other widows from both sides of the apartheid struggle.  Though 91 years old, Betsie still had a reputation as a fiery woman and staunch supporter of apartheid and Afrikaner nationalism.  She declined the invitation, and in what seemed like a throw-away line at the time, she replied that if Mandela ever came to Orania, she would gladly invite him for tea.  To everyone’s surprise, Mandela accepted the invitation.[15]

The residents of Orania held a series of meetings in order to decide what to do, but in the end they took their guidance from the Biblical admonition to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.”  As the legally elected head of state, they would allow his visit.  That is not to say, though, that they did not make every effort to make his visit uncomfortable.  The town council flew the old Transvaal flag, and on telephone and light poles throughout the town were posted signs reminding Mandela that, “speaking Afrikaans is the best advice.”  Armed Afrikaners ringed the city, keeping out unwanted visitors but also sending a rather menacing message to blacks and others who had grown up fearing the combination of arms and Afrikaners.[16]

Mandela, though, handled the affair with an unflappable ease.  He stopped to shake hands and chat in Afrikaans with the townspeople. He then met with Betsie Verwoerd for half an hour over tea and koeksisters, a Dutch braided donut drizzled with syrup.[17]  Afterwards, the two met with reporters, and Mrs. Verwoerd read a short statement urging the President to help the Afrikaner people.  Mandela thanked Mrs. Verwoerd for her hospitality, and replied that when two peoples or people disagree, “the best weapon is to sit and talk.”[18]

Mandela received a great deal of criticism for meeting with Verwoerd’s wife, particularly from South Africa’s black press.  The Sowetan took him to task for meeting with, “the High Princess of Apartheid,” and lamented that he was spending “too much time pacifying the lunatic fringe that offered nothing more than white supremacy.”[19]  The Star worried that Mandela was giving whites, “an overdose of St. Nelsonism.”[20]  These critics asserted that he should be marginalizing figures like Verwoerd’s widow instead of paying them the respect of a presidential audience.  It was, from their perspective, a sign of weaknesses and a display of pandering.

But, among other things, Nelson Mandela understood the power of a small gesture and the importance of symbolism.  His critics wrongly viewed his trip to Orania as an act of genuflection or even capitulation to Afrikaner intransigence.  On Robben Island, Mandela had come to the conclusion that in a struggle for freedom, the enemy will always define the nature and terms of the struggle. At this moment, he properly understood his opponent, and used the symbolism associated with the Verwoerd name to make a point.  By showing absolute civility to people for whom he would have been justified in having righteous contempt, and in the face of unreasonable dissent, he had adeptly demonstrated the reasonableness of the path he suggested and cast his opponents as extremists.  Moreover, at a time when Afrikaner nationalists were still pressing for a whites-only Volkstaat, his presence in Orania, in his capacity as President of the Republic of South Africa, made plain that there would be only one South Africa, a single nation of many races, and he was in charge of it.  Though it was certainly conducted with class, humility and respect, his visit to Orania –indeed, to the very shrine of Verwoerd himself- was an assertive act that made clear the reality, scope and permanence of the new dispensation.   The bittereinders had retreated to Orania to make their last stand, but Mandela’s visit allowed him to apply the coup de grâce to a particular strain of Afrikaner nationalism as a viable mainstream political movement within South Africa. In a masterful bit of political jujitsu, Mandela used the memory and symbolism of Hendrik Verwoerd as an instrument to marginalize conservative Afrikaner politics and break bittereinder resistance as an active entity within mainstream South African politics.

In striving to become a true multiracial democracy, Americans also had to negotiate the complexities of symbol, history and memory. Just days into his term as Governor of Alabama, James Folsom, Jr.  announced that the Confederate battle flag would no longer fly over the Alabama State House.[21]  “Little Jim” Folsom’s role in this moment seemed to bring Alabama politics full circle.  Big Jim, the new governor’s father, had mentored George Wallace, and in the days before Patterson and Wallace steered the state in a darker direction, the elder Folsom’s governorship demonstrated the genuine possibility of a less racially poisonous politics in Alabama.  Much of the debate about the flag’s role in Alabama life focused on the Confederacy itself, but in fact the real question was never so much about coming to peace with Appomattox as it was about turning the page on the Wallace era.  The Confederate battle flag had, after all, never flown over the capital until Gov. Wallace made the decision to do so in anticipation of Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s visit.  Seymour Trammel, a close Wallace aide and the state’s finance director, penned a letter to the Montgomery Advertiser making clear what Wallace’s intentions were in doing so, saying, “the decision that Gov. Wallace and I made to fly the battle flag that day can only be described as an act of defiance.”[22]

That Alabama sought to move past the prickly question of this flag had a great deal to do with projecting an image of a new Alabama.  This new Alabama needed to move beyond the ugly stereotypes many Americans associated with the state: attack dogs, fire hoses, Bull Connor, race riots, and, yes, George C. Wallace.  Indeed, seeing the Confederate flag come down from the State House was something of a rewinding of Alabama’s political history.  Alabama had again become a state led by a Folsom, and this Folsom urged the people to adopt a modicum of restraint and racial progressiveness.  More pointedly, given that Wallace had made the flag into something like a personal brand, Folsom’s stance was seen as a final repudiation of Wallace’s politics, or at least the 1960s iteration thereof.

At his 1962 inauguration, Wallace stood on a stage decorated with Confederate flags and bunting, placing himself among the old heroes of the South by reminding the audience that he, “stood where Jefferson Davis once stood,” and that it was, “very appropriate that from this Cradle of the Confederacy, this very Heart of the Great Anglo-Saxon Southland… we sound the drum for freedom.”[23]  Sprinkled throughout his speech were references to Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Confederate notions of honor and duty.  This theme would persist throughout his career. Wallace made the Confederate flag an important part of his image.  When John Patterson sought to paint him as a racial moderate in the 1958 gubernatorial election, Wallace deployed the flag as a way of bolstering his racial bona fides; in 1962, his mobile hustings podium was draped in the Rebel flag and he made a point of handing out thousands of small Confederate flags to his rally-goers. Once governor, Wallace ordered the flag placed on police cars and helmets and he even featured it prominently behind his desk in the Governor’s Mansion. This strategic location meant that his official portraits and the photographs of him meeting with various dignitaries invariably included the Confederate flag as a stark background and frame.   The stars and bars became so ubiquitous that the Birmingham News quipped, “the Confederate flag is becoming just as much a symbol of the Wallace administration as his campaign slogan.”[24]  And finally, in 1975, when Wallace wanted to set a slightly more moderate tone, he had the flag lowered at the Alabama State House so that it still flew, but at a height below that of the American flag.

The rationale that Wallace gave for not removing the flag altogether provides a fascinating point of departure for comparing the lasting legacies and memories of Wallace and Verwoerd.  Wallace believed that there was no dichotomy between Southern and American.  In fact, he saw something quintessentially American in the history and traditions of the South.  In response to a letter on this subject, George Wallace wrote forcefully that, “the Confederate flag not only belongs to the people of the South but it belongs to the Nation- it is part of American history and American heritage.”[25]  In this statement, Wallace spoke to one of the most profound and complicated truths in American history: the South is utterly American, and yet completely other; yet, America is very much Southern, but uses its more Southern aspects as a foil against which to develop a more progressive image of itself.  The South played an indispensible and central role in the founding of the Republic as a slave nation governed by free men, and its complicated and troubled relationship with the North and the broader nation doomed the Republic to civil war and two centuries of racial disharmony.  More than any other single fact of American life, Southern institutions and dispositions have often threatened to shatter the nation.  This is the essential cognitive dissonance at the heart of American life, and both competing chords of this cacophonous history were struck in the South.  Freedom, slavery, oppression, liberation, Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Martin Luther King, Jr and George C. Wallace.  All completely American, all quintessentially Southern.

In an often-ignored part of his infamous 1963 Inaugural Address, Wallace looked to touch upon the Southernness of all Americans by recruiting them to help him fight against desegregations, saying[26]:

Hear me, Southerners! You sons and daughters who have moved north and west throughout this nation, we call on you from your native soil to join with us in national support… For though you may live in the farthest reaches of this vast country, your heart has never left Dixieland.  And you native sons and daughters of old New England’s rock-ribbed patriotism, and you sturdy natives of the great Midwest, and you descendants of the far West flaming spirit of pioneer freedom, we invite you to come and be with us. For you are of the Southern mind, and the Southern spirit, and the Southern philosophy. You are Southerners too and brothers with us in our fight.


Wallace was among the first modern politicians to understand the undeniable “Southerness” of America.  Wallace often told audiences that on racial matters, Northerners did not differ as much as they would have you believe and he bristled at Northern critiques of Southern life as condescending and hypocritical.  For those who witnessed busing riots in Boston, angry protests in Chicago’s white ethnic communities, or white flight amongst middle-class Michiganders, Wallace seemed to have a point.  Wallace saw Northern protestations against Southern segregation as righteousness on the cheap.  Castigation of an other requires less effort and accountability than does actual self-improvement and transformation.  Wallace’s father raised young George with stories of how the North belittled and ground down the South and its institutions, so it would make sense that Wallace would see the advent of integration through this lens.

Despite efforts late in his life to alter the trajectory of his lasting legacy, for many people George Wallace had himself become the emblem of Southern white defiance. This symbolism placed him beyond the realm of forgiveness. Given the uneven or incomplete nature of his apologies, and given the fact that Wallace consistently spoke dishonestly about his own role in the violence in Alabama, there is substantial reason for skepticism about his supposed conversion. But, in the context of America and its sense of itself, its past and what it is supposed to become, Wallace’s Damascene moment is a useful narrative device.  His life as he would have it understood parallels the very trajectory of America itself: he was always a basically good man with no animus towards blacks, but he was seized by the forces of history and circumstance and forced to defend ingrained processes and cherished history that happened to be attached to problematic racial practices.  In the end, after suffering violence, sadness and a spiritual redemption, he became the best version of what he always was: a good man, filled with love of democracy and equality.  And so goes the process of reconciliation.  Imperfectly defined and articulated sins are forgiven, and new and uncertain understandings get expressed and agreed upon, even when incompletely understood.  As a matter for public discourse, clarity is subservient to need for consensus because, after all, the need to clarify might introduce the rather uncomfortable fact that this new myth is founded upon an indispensible lie and contradicts old ways of thinking and being.  This is how the national myths are reconfigured and reborn.

If Wallace was used to demonstrate America’s becoming, then Verwoerd was used more explicitly as an example of South Africa’s past that had to be jettisoned.  This is made easier by the fact that Verwoerd died unrepentant and at the very apex of his reign over an explicitly racist state. When true democracy came to South Africa, even most prominent mainline Nationalists were willing to trash Verwoerd’s legacy.  In an unusual way, this universal condemnation of Verwoerd provided one of the first mutually agreed-upon cornerstones of the new nation.  For whites, Verwoerd symbolized the embarrassing moral lapse that they had supported and allowed to happen; for blacks, Verwoerd became the one person on whom to pile the entire culpability for those larger national sins.  In hundreds of articles, scores of public meetings, and thousands of discussions in township shebeens and Internet chatrooms, it is clear that black South Africans carried a particular disgust for Verwoerd. In his defense of white supremacy, Verwoerd is without nuance and seems to represent the very human manifestation of the decades-long torment visited upon black South Africans.

In most respects, removing Verwoerd from public life in South Africa was an outwardly easier task than expunging Wallace.  Wallace’s personal narrative fit within the American conception of redemption and becoming, and the notion of a “new Wallace” resonated with Americans in a way that never could with Verwoerd among South Africans.  In fact, Verwoerd seemed instantly to become an anachronism once democracy came to South Africa.  By contrast, Wallace lingered long enough to press for forgiveness and profess his own redemption, and thus found a place in the new America being formed in the aftermath of the civil rights strife of the 1950s and 1960s.  Of course, both of these notions are dishonest in their simplicity.

The Wallace story arch, as he would have us take it, is at once comforting to those made weary by long years of racial strife and pernicious in its use of superficial or individualized progress to make broader claims about the national situation.  The American assumption of progress and the appertaining narrative of redemption focus too much on individual instances of personal or local change. This can lead to too-hasty and too-broad proclamations of the sort Justice Roberts deployed in his 2013 Shelby County v. Holder opinion that gutted the enforcement of certain aspects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  Roberts, relying in part on symbolic victories such as the election of a black mayor in Selma, wrote that federal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act was, “based on 40 year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day.”[27]  These sorts of premature declarations of victory draw in part from the foundational American notion that the country is on an interminable and direct march towards the best version of itself. Importantly, Wallace –the most prominent villain of Selma- figures into this new narrative.  Asserting that the transformation of a single locus synonymous with racial antipathy is indicative of a broader truth is of a kind with using Wallace’s transformation to make larger appeals about a changed America.  Importantly, this notion admits of no possibility for regression.  Moreover, it gets conflated with the idea of an innately good America with morally sound founding principles. This perspective is one that had traditionally been used by the civil rights movement itself, which preferred to couch its demands in the context of them being the fulfillment of the most genuinely American aspiration, and not as a deviation from the course of American history. The arc of the moral universe, Chief Justice Roberts might say, cannot double back on itself.

In seeing how America has dealt with the matter of race, it is easy to understand the sense of intractable frustration that many American blacks feel.  Superficially at least, by the mid-1990s, the race problem in South Africa seemed larger but simpler, whereas the legacy of men like Wallace exposed just how complicated further racial progress in America might be.  In the intervening two decades, though, South Africa has learned the hard truth that excising the infection of racism from South Africa’s national corpus is not as easy as simply disinfecting the wound of any traces of visible Verwoerdism.  In the first place, Verwoerd has remained a persistent symbol for Afrikaner bittereinders.  Following in the footsteps of Orania, conservative Afrikaners have followed up on their promise to construct more whites-only villages.  Kleinfontein, a 1,000-person settlement on the outskirts of Pretoria finished initial construction in 2012, complete with an imposing iron bust of Hendrik Verwoerd at the town’s entrance gates.  In hundreds of chatrooms and in the dark anonymous recesses of cyberspace, Verwoerd has emerged as the symbol of unreconstructed Afrikaner resistance.  More pressing than these annoyances, though, is the broader realization that the removal of National Party emblems and heroes from public areas has not brought with it the substantive economic improvement that Mandela and the ANC promised blacks in 1994.  The income, health, and lifestyle gap between whites and blacks is closing exceedingly slowly.

The path forward for South Africa remains quite perilous in part because it has struggled to construct a new national history.  In terms of how South Africans conceptualize their history and themselves, the removal of Verwoerd and a few more obviously ugly remnants of the past has not solved the problem of what to do about the fact that the nation’s pre-1994 history is so comprehensively racist.  Who and what from the past can be carried to the present and into the future?  Within the context of the new dispensation, is the Boer a South African?  What of the Boer heroes?  Of other whites complicit in the construction or perpetuation of racial discrimination?  Paul Kruger?  Cecil Rhodes?  Louis Botha? Jan Smuts?  On parks, roads, monuments and public works, one can still see the names and faces of these men prominently displayed throughout South Africa.  None have clean hands, but in each instance Mandela and his ANC successors in power made the calculation that a too-strict national orthodoxy would inflame Afrikaner resistance.

How South Africans dealt with these questions says powerful and incisive things about the nature of history and memory in South Africa.  After all, many Americans would consider it an outrage if Washington and Jefferson were referred to chiefly as the “Architects of Slavery” and expelled from all areas of national reverence.  And yet, their roles in the founding of America as a slave nation are irrefutable.  More complicated still, while Washington and Jefferson find their busts memorialized on Mt. Rushmore’s granite face un-ironically positioned next to that of the Great Emancipator, those few remaining statues of Verwoerd or his successor B.J. Vorster are relegated to dusty basement shipping crates and hillside memorials in absurd fringe communities.  This is not to attempt to rehabilitate Hendrik Verwoerd, but rather to point out that America has a much more flexible sense of itself, and that America’s history gets more readily bent to the purposes of presenting and maintaining a unified and more inclusive projection of what it purports to have always been.

In his exhaustive history of the Afrikaner people, one of Hermann Giliomee’s principle tasks is to accept Afrikaner guilt in the construction of apartheid, but also to make sure that Britain and South Africa’s English-speaking whites do not escape their fair share of culpability.  We are all, Giliomee asserts, guilty together- or, at least the white man.  But troweling deeper into the present mindset of the Afrikaner, it becomes harder to disentangle the sense of guilt at their many sins against blacks and their sense of pride at having built the wealthiest, most powerful, and most technologically proficient nation in Africa.  It is fitting that these two notions defy easy separation; after all, the latter has everything to do with the former.  During the controversy over Verwoerd’s place on the list of the 100 Greatest South Africans, the question of Afrikaner guilt versus Afrikaner accomplishments invariably came up.  Many of the people commenting on SATV’s message boards and in response to online articles believed that Afrikaner defenses of their history felt rather like an unrepentant European rightist remembering fondly that the Fascists made the trains run on time.  But, this line of attack would seem too glib.  After all, the Afrikaner defense of their history is very similar in structure and tone to how an American might extol the virtues of the Founders while at the same moment noting their failings.  Rarely a year passes without a new biography of Jefferson or Washington, and nearly all of these biographers will play the same tune.  And yet, nearly every virtue and vice applied to Jefferson could be said of Verwoerd: a great intellectual who expanded the nation’s territory and riches, but who failed massively on the question of race.

In putting Verwoerd against America’s founding heroes, two distinctions are important.  Most obviously, America’s 18th Century icons benefit tremendously from the kind treatment of intervening centuries. In the process of creating a seamless whole of American history and of ‘Americanness,’ the United States benefits from the soft focus lens that distant history imparts upon men like Washington and Jefferson. Verwoerd is far too recent, and still too freshly known, to receive the same treatment as America’s founders. Moreover, in shaping public perception, a slave narrative or personal letter struggles to have the same emotional gravity as a newsreel or personal account delivered by an apartheid survivor. Second, though the American founders created a slave state, they also created a nation that had within its founding documents expressions of Enlightenment ideals that would later prove quite subversive to the persistence of slavery.  In his March 1860 speech at New Haven, Abraham Lincoln compared slavery to a venomous snake coiled in the family bed in order to demonstrate the dangers posed by that institution to the basic functions and ideals of democracy. But, one could just as easily put this metaphor on its head, and assert that the Enlightenment values proclaimed in the Declaration and hidden throughout the Constitution were themselves snakes in the bed of a slave nation as created by its slave-owning founders. However one views the essential nature of America at its inception, what is true is that as America moved beyond slavery in the 19th century, and de jure segregation in the 20th century, Americans would come to see these moments, not as a departure from our essential character, but as fulfillments of it. Or, at least as corrections of prior deviations from it. The notions of becoming and fulfillment found their most eloquent expression in the opening thirty words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  The Civil War did not give liberty to blacks; the nation was, after all, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” But, re-remembering these moments as events in line with a newly formed platonic ideal of America required a comprehensive retroactive continuity that imposed a false seamlessness onto a morally disjointed past.

Nonetheless, this retroactive continuity had immense appeal to Americans. Wallace in his winter attempted to reconfigure himself into the very embodiment of this cognitive dissonance. To anyone who would listen, he was an essentially good Christian man who just made a few mistakes on the question of race.  George Wallace pleaded with history to remember his essential goodness. Like Othello’s Iago telling the audience, “I am not what I am,” Wallace wanted history to know that his actions and statements were not his true self.  Many Americans, perhaps suffering from a bout of historical parallax, would take some righteous satisfaction in condemning Wallace for this self-serving assertion, while at the same time ignoring the broader vital lie that undergirds America’s self-conception: we are not what we are. Or, perhaps more generously, we were never who we now say we were.

By contrast, the present perception of Verwoerd can never become more or other than what he was. Beyond the fact that he died unrepentant and at the very apex of apartheid’s power, his vision of apartheid admitted no wrong and provided no expressions of higher moral aspirations for the present nation to build upon. His defenses of apartheid tended more towards the expedient than the moral or philosophical. In Verwoerd, we have neither a man seeking redemption on his deathbed nor a man who, like Jefferson, felt torn between his higher ideals and the practical demands of his situation. Indeed, Verwoerd prided himself on his certitude, and thus he among all apartheid figures will yield most stubbornly to any attempt at rehabilitation or incorporation into the new national narrative.  This makes him an ideal depository for all of the old republic’s sins.

Nonetheless, South Africa could not simply perform a clean amputation of its history.  Apartheid was an all-encompassing system, and not just a single man. The economic damage from apartheid lingers still, and out of necessity much of the old National Party bureaucracy and the old financial system stayed in place after the transition to democracy, thus guaranteeing the continued influence of white apartheid-era functionaries.  The task facing the ANC was tremendous.  In order for South Africans to move forward together, the country had to take on the near impossible task of balancing remembrance with reconciliation, the need for an accurate history with the imperatives of a workable shared future, and the need to invent a new national identity with the need not to trample too aggressively upon the memories, icons and histories of the very Afrikaner-dominated past that had necessitated the creation of a new future in the fist place.

When Mandela took office, he made a series of gestures designed to soothe tensions with Afrikaners.  The old vierkleur flag was incorporated into the new national flag, and Mandela ordered that all prior versions of the nation’s old flags remain on display in the Parliament and be given a place of honor.  On the surface, this vexillological fussiness might not seem worthy of much notice, but in South Africa such matters have in the past been quite serious. When the notion of a national flag was first proposed in 1925, Afrikaners in the Transvaal viewed it as a usurpation of their distinctiveness and waged a three-year fight to prevent it.  And when it looked as though all of the old British imperial symbols would be removed from the new national flag, English-speakers in the Natal threatened secession. Prior to that, in 1910, the initial parliamentary sessions of the new Union government were ground to a halt because of lengthy and vicious fights over what would go on the coins and postage stamps. In the transition of power that occurred between Jan Smuts’ United Party to the National Party, there arose bitter fights at the local, provincial and national level over the names of schools, hospitals, roads, squares and even telecommunications towers.[28]  Just fifteen years before Mandela took office, a white historian was literally tarred and feathered for suggesting that Afrikaners take a less openly worshipful view of their history, symbols and myths so as to ease the transition towards a more moderate future.[29]

Mandela understood the vexing prickliness of symbols, and sought to avoid trouble.  The trick was to find a way to remove, marginalize or otherwise cope with the problematic symbols and names without agitating conservative Afrikaners too much. These old symbols could be neither present in, nor absent from, South African public life.  Commenting on the absurdity of the problem, the famous South African satirist and performance artist Pieter Dirk Uys petitioned the South African government for, “all Afrikaner monuments [to be] removed from the mainland and placed in the cells in the prison on Robben Island. It could then be called ‘Boerassic Park.’”[30]

Satire aside, talk of moving the statues of Verwoerd and his fellow Nationalists to something akin to Moscow’s old Temporary Museum of Totalitarian Art presented very real problems.  The creation of a space to house and display monuments dedicated to South Africa’s historical villains would create a de facto list of state mandated damnatio memoriae.  While some cases, like Verwoerd, would merit easy inclusion, other heroes of white South Africa, such as J.B.M. Hertzog, Jan Smuts and Paul Kruger would present more complex cases likely to trigger lengthy fights.  Moreover, without careful and nuanced curating and presentation, such a collection carried the risk of becoming a shrine for recalcitrant whites.

Because all sides viewed Verwoerd as a special case, he became a useful symbol for both the exorcism of old demons and an effective scapegoat that allowed the nation to sidestep some questions of broader guilt.  Indeed, making a spectacle of the destruction of one man’s monuments evades the bigger truth that white supremacy was the central tenet of South African politics and life from the very founding of the Union and before, and that disentangling racism from South Africa’s history was an impossible task. Taking up a similar problem in an American context, George Wallace’s old nemesis Judge Frank Johnson spoke to the fact that an attempted smooth and easy excision of flesh gone necrotic with racism does not cure the body politic of the more pervasive sickness of white supremacy.  When the NAACP petitioned him for an injunction to force Alabama to remove the Confederate flag on the grounds that it was a vestige of slavery, Johnson replied that much of the entire state of Alabama was a vestige of slavery, and that, “under that argument the Capital itself would be a vestige of slavery” and would have to be removed or destroyed.[31]

Neither South Africa nor the United States attempted to undertake a complete cleansing of racism from its sense its past.  Rather, in both instances the new national identities that were created tried to fuse together incongruous elements.  In Alabama, George Wallace’s successor, Gov. Harold Guy Hunt, resisted taking down the Confederate flag, and insisted that it was not inconsistent with modern American values.  He told reporters, “let’s let tolerance go both ways, and let’s celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, and let’s let the Confederate flag fly, because those are two things Alabama is known for, the Confederacy and the civil rights movement.”[32]  In this spirit of reconciliatory incongruity, six Southern states have joint holidays celebrating both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert E. Lee.  These sorts of accommodations demonstrate the degree to which Americans continue to feel the need to create a national identity that is both palatable to modern sensibilities and yet embracing of previous iterations of the nation that oppose diametrically the new values.

When such moments occur recently, they can appear as crass attempts to square the historical circle. Nonetheless, people choose to infuse such outlandish combinations into the national mythology because this mythology is so profoundly central to people’s conceptions of themselves and their state that to exclude a people from the founding myths is effectively to exclude them from the nation’s present sense of itself and its future trajectory.  In his groundbreaking work, “Das kulturelle Gedächtnis,” the German intellectual Jan Assmann used the term ‘mythomotorik’ to describe the mobilizing and forward-looking power of myths.[33]  Assmann saw mythomotorik as a powerful and central impulse within a nation, and one that is crafted intentionally and with a specific goal and ideal in mind.  Just who is in charge of the mythomotorik is, of course, a vital question.  As Michel Foucault insisted, “the interpretation of history is a conspicuous form of domination,” and as new regimes or new sensibilities take over, there is a predictable inclination to redirect the trajectory of the mythomotorik by reconfiguring the shared understanding of history.[34]

In America, this process took place within the context of how to treat issues like the Confederate flag and the legacy of George Wallace, to name but a few points of friction.  In South Africa, the easy battles involved how to remember people like Verwoerd, but there persisted more complicated questions about how best to absorb Afrikaner history into the national narrative.  This question was raised most notably in the question about what to do with the Voortrekker Monument.  Completed in 1949, this massive 130-foot marble structure is built atop a hill overlooking Pretoria.  With more than 100,000 Afrikaners in attendance, the consecration ceremony was an earnest and religious moment meant to link the past to a very specific set of obligations that every Afrikaner had to take up.  After a nationwide three minute moment of silence, the assembled crowd, and those listening on the radio, were urged to recite the holy vow that Sarel Cilliers read to the Voortrekkers on the eve of the Battle of Blood River in which the 464-man Boer army annihilated 15,000 Zulu warriors.  Prime Minister Malan told the crowd that South Africa must “forever be on the trek road,” and urged that the new monument must honor those who had laid, “the foundation for a White Christian civilization in a greater South Africa.”[35] Speaker after speaker emphasized the divine source of the Afrikaner mission to subdue the continent, and all agreed that this mission was ongoing and eternal.  Prime Minister D. F. Malan proclaimed that, “in our history there is one thought, a plan.  It is not a coincidence… It is none other than the work of the Engineer of History and the Architect of Centuries- it is the work of God.”[36]

Upon witnessing the unveiling of the new monument and participating in that day’s solemn events, a reporter for the Cape Argus noted that, “when the present generation and future generations look on the Voorktrekker Monument they should ask themselves the soul-searching question, “Whither South Africa?”[37] This question survived the decades, and as the country looked to move forward in the 1990s, it seemed to linger ominously over every choice the new nation confronted. Increasingly, blacks saw the Voortrekker Monument as a symbol and gathering place for whites looking to resist the advent of a multicultural South Africa ruled by a black majority.  In 1990, the Conservative Party held a series of high-profile meetings and rallies there, partly to protest the marginalization of figures like Verwoerd and the imminent demise of white rule.  As the negotiations proceeded toward the elections in 1994, groups like the far-right Oranjewerkers played up the notion of the monument as Afrikaner holy ground.

After the elections in 1994, the ANC had to deal squarely with this question. Even though the Battle of Blood River and the Voortrekkers themselves had a profoundly different meaning among blacks, the Voortrekker Monument was too important to Afrikaners for the new ANC government to destroy or shutter.  But, it was also untenable for a massive marble building meant to commemorate a God-granted white supremacy over southern Africa to look down upon the nation’s executive capital. The solution was one quite akin to how Gov. Hunt dealt with the Confederate battle flag that his successor, George Wallace, had left hanging from the state capital.  With the 50th anniversary of the Monument looming, the government worried that this anniversary might pique Afrikaner nerves in the same way that its initial consecration and the 1938 Voortrekker centenary had. The fever of commemoration that had surrounded the initial buildings of these monuments in mid-century had been an important moment in the galvanizing and mobilization of Afrikaners. This played a key role in the eventual Nationalist victories in the 1948 elections.  Though the new reality of democratic South Africa was that Afrikaners could not use nostalgia as a springboard to electoral victory, the ANC also recognized the very real danger that Afrikaners might choose not to contribute meaningfully to the creation of a new republic if swayed by a pique of longing for the past.  Or, worse yet, they might attempt to live in secluded Afrikaner-only enclaves or leave South Africa altogether.  As Afrikaner social commentator Danie Goosen explained at the time, “since the election of 1994 there was a notable escapist tendency among Afrikaners. Some escaped into the other worldly idea of nation-building, others fled overseas, whilst a larger number sought their salvation in individualistic economic prosperity and personal enrichment.”[38]

Initially, the ANC government expressed a preference to let the date pass without official recognition, but Afrikaners fought back against what they saw as an attempt to remove Afrikaner history from the national narrative.  An editorial in Die Burger proclaimed that the ANC “wants us to forget [our history] altogether.  But we won’t.”[39]  The 50th anniversary would provide, Die Burger asserted, “an opportunity to place the country’s history in perspective.”  What precisely that perspective was, though, remained a thorny issue.  Fearful that a commemoration without state involvement could take on its own momentum and meaning, as it had in 1938, the national government became involved, but sought a middle way.  The Monument would be celebrated as an important part of South African history as part of a broader commemoration that included Pretoria’s new Freedom Park, the Nelson Mandela Museum, and the construction of a new Constitutional Court. Thus, in the same way that Gov. Hunt had coupled Martin Luther King Day with the flying of the Confederate flag, so too would South Africa look to link incongruous symbols into an impossible oddball mélange.  The ANC wanted to turn the symbol of Afrikaner conquest into an example of national unity and racial reconciliation.

This rewriting of history was helped by the fact that there was no single unified voice that had reasonable claim to speak for Afrikaners.  By 1998, the National Party had already entered its rapid descent into irrelevance. It officially disbanded in 1997 and then attempted a re-launch and rebranding as the New National Party.  The new party failed spectacularly, as in one fell swoop it managed to drive away its hardcore conservative base while still failing to attract new voters, most of whom were suspicious that the NNP was merely the same old NP attempting to cloak itself in nonracial respectability.  Before its clumsy suicide, the NP had positioned itself as the ANC’s main opposition (with some 20% of parliamentary seats). By 2004, the NNP received less than 2% of the vote.  In a move that would have seemed impossible just 15 years prior, the remnants of Verwoerd’s old party struck a deal with the ANC and were absorbed into the African National Congress.  Thus, the party that had ruled the nation for half a century died with a whimper. Among the effects of this was that conservative white opposition no longer had a single place and party through which to voice its dissent, concerns or suggestions.  As such, when the ANC went about the business of reinterpreting South Africa’s history, the old National Party constituents were very much on the outside looking in.

Initially, the ANC worked in conjunction with the War Museum of the Boer Republics, an historically Afrikaner-run facility that had since 1994 cooperated with the government to produce commemorations of events in Afrikaner history in a manner that earnestly tried to balance historical accuracy with the new national sensibility.  But, in 1999 the ANC replaced several of the board members with Zulu-speaking blacks South Africans in order to produce commemorations much more in line with the creation of a single national history.[40] And, the most important of the celebrations was moved from a large sports area in Bloemfontein open to the public to a much smaller reception in the small town of Branfordt.  Branfordt was selected, in part, because it contained a cemetery interning the remains of British and Boer soldiers, as well as those of a black child alleged to have died in the British concentration camps.

The assembled dignitaries were treated to an unusual spectacle in which black children dressed as Voortrekkers and reenacted various scenes from Afrikaner history, including the Great Trek.  Though, not the Battle of Blood River.  In a reenactment of the tragedy of the concentration camps, young black boys dressed as redcoat British officers while young black girls donned bonnets and ankle skirts and played the roles of the suffering Boer women.[41]  The Citizen, a Johannesburg tabloid catering to middle-class blacks, noted that this event did not attract the typical cast of characters drawn to commemorations of Afrikaner history, pointing out that, “nary to be seen were the bearded, solid pipe-smoking Afrikaners of yore in velskoens, slough hates and colourful ‘kappies’ and Voortrekker dresses. Nowhere in sight was a Vierkleur or even a venerable ox-wagon… The only white men in view were the… police.”[42]

Through its reimagined presentation of Afrikaner history, the government turned what had previously been a mass gathering of everyday Afrikaners into a display of a new South African history created by and for the new elites, but also for a broader national audience hungering for an inclusive national narrative.  Indeed, the Afrikaans press praised the event, and both black and conservative white newspapers saw it as a powerful expression of nation building.[43]  Over and over, when South Africa needed to sidestep contentious historical issues, it made use of odd historical pairings to both satisfy all parties and stitch together a new national narrative from mismatched parts.  Perhaps the most prominent example involves, December 16th, which was celebrated by Afrikaners as the Day of the Vow, commemorating the Voortrekker victory at Blood River, and by the ANC as the anniversary of the founding of the armed faction Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) became the Day of Reconciliation.  The creation of this holiday was in part a recognition of the fact that these two factions would likely celebrate these holidays anyway, and thus it would be better to place them both under the umbrella of a single day that would be imbued with new meaning and intent.  As with the joint MLK and Confederate holidays in Alabama, creating a single national South African holiday that, among other things, gives official recognition to a celebration commemorating the death of 10,000 Zulus and also to one memorializing a black armed struggle against Afrikaner rules seems on its face incongruous.  Jann Assmann’s metaphor of history as a motor that moves a society or nation might inadvertently convey a sense of machine-like logic; in fact, as South Africa and the United States make plain, the motor that drives a republic is more ad hoc, internally contradictory and irreconcilably incongruous than it is a smooth-running and seamless engine.

The lives and legacies of George Wallace and Hendrik Verwoerd offer a glimpse at how their respective nations handled the inherent incongruities and inconsistencies in such constructed identities.  In the case of Verwoerd, he became a useful signpost of extreme unacceptability that allowed for the inclusion of people, events and groups who might otherwise be too obviously out of step with South Africa’s new sense of its history.  By contrast, George C. Wallace found himself incorporated into the American narrative as yet another instance of an imperfect man who rediscovered true Americanness and thereby found a more forgiving place within the American narrative.

In both instances, these republics seek to strike a balance between the need for something like an accurate history and the need for a narrative that is universally palatable.  In his epilogue to Fitzhugh Brundage’s essay collection, Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory, and Southern Identity, historian David Blight reminds us that, “too much memory can consume and kill us; without it, though, we risk being ignorant creatures of fate.”[44]  As America and South Africa move forward, it will be instructive to watch the interplay between the need for a history moored in truth and the desire amongst the public for a version of that history that falls in line with a more comfortable and positive sense of nation and self.  And, importantly, this is not just an academic debate; the lives of Wallace and Verwoerd make this all too plain.  Both men drew powerful motivations from formative years exposed to ideas of loss and marginalization, and as the 100 Greatest South Africans controversy shows, they have the capacity to themselves serve such a purpose for others.  South Africa discovered that a conciliatory construction of history is not always met in kind, and that much reconstruction remains to be done among recalcitrant whites who still look longingly to the apartheid past.  In America, the challenge is slightly different, though also rooted in the peculiarities of America’s self-constructed identity.  Wallace’s (at least partial) public redemption exemplifies a too-easy pathway to reconciliation on the cheap.  As Justice Robert’s opinion in Holder shows, Americans are too quickly enamored with stories of salvation, particularly so when they fall within the story arch of accepted and well-loved myths associated with the nation’s great civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1949, Prime Minister Malan marveled that the “Engineer of History” had in fact been the animating force behind the survival of the Afrikaner people and the construction of the Voortrekker Monument meant to honor them.  Whether God was the guiding hand of actual events is a question too large for this mere tome, but in the construction of history, it is certainly true that, as Shakespeare said, “the fault… is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”  Our understandings of these two men will undoubtedly change with time as history bends to meet the exigencies, answer the questions and reflect the identities of each new generation anew.  Thus is imbued an unpredictable dynamism to the circular relationship between the history that makes the man, the man that shapes events, and the future generations who reinterpret and repurpose them.

This investigation now comes to an end.  In this final page, let us hope that in reflecting upon the ugly histories of George Wallace and Hendrik Verwoerd, those forewarned are indeed forearmed.  This dissertation began with the story of the memorialization of George C. Wallace, and thus balance requires a final scene seen taken from the life and legacy of Hendrik Verwoerd.  As Nelson Mandela’s tour of Orania wound down, the residents of the town brought him to the top of a hill overlooking the banks of the Orange River.  There, they proudly showed him the life-size stone statue of his old nemesis.  Perhaps Mandela’s years of struggling against apartheid had made him see Verwoerd as something much bigger than he was, or perhaps Mandela understood the full historical significance of that moment.  As he looked down at the statue of Hendrik Verwoerd, the towering Mandela smiled and quipped, “you’ve made him very small.”


[1] United Nations Human Development Report, South Africa 1994

[2] Nelson Mandela Inaugural Speech, May 10, 1994.

[3] Martin Meredity, The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence, (New York: Public Affairs, 2022), 652.

[4] Sunday Star, May 26, 1991; Sunday Star, August 15, 1993.

[5] Daily Mail, August 15, 1990.

[6] Cape Times, February 18, 1991.

[7] Die Afrikaner, June 14, 1991; Die Afrikaner, February 17, 1993.

[8] Patriot, March 19, 1993; Citizen, September 14, 1991.

[9] Pretoria News, May 29, 1991.

[10] Cape Times, June 21, 1994.

[11] Sunday Tribune, June 19, 1994.

[12] Weekend Argus, June 19, 1994.

[13] The Economist, September 25, 2008.

[14] The Sowetan, August 17, 1995.

[15] Weekly Mail & Guardian, August 24, 1995.

[16] Eastern Province Herald, August 16, 1995.

[17] Business Day, August 16, 1995.

[18] Citizen, August 16, 1995.

[19] Sowetan, August 18, 1995.

[20] Star, August 10, 1995.

[21] Montgomery Advertiser, May 13, 1993.

[22] Montgomery Advertiser, November 12, 1992; for more details on Wallace and the Confederate flag controversy, see John Coski, The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).

[23] George Wallace Inaugural Address, January 14, 1963

[24] Birmingham News, April 28, 1963.

[25] George Wallace letter to Rev. Dearmond, January 31, 1964, Alabama Department of Archives and History.

[26] George C. Wallace, Inaugural Address.

[27] Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 2013.

[28] Patrick Harries, “From Public History to Private Enterprise: The Politics of Memory in the New South Africa,” Historical Memory in Africa: Dealing With the Past, Reaching for the Future in an Intercultural Context, (New York: Berghahn Books, 2010), 122.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Annie Coombes, History After Apartheid: Visual Culture and Public Memory in a Democratic South Africa, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 19.

[31] NAACP v. Hunt, 891 F. 2d. 1555 (11th Cir. 1990); see also: Birmingham News, October 18, 1989; John Coski, The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press); James Forman, Jr., “Driving Down Dixie: Removing the Confederate Flag from Southern State Capitals,” Yale Law Journal 101 (November 1991).

[32] Montgomery Advertiser, February 1, 1988.

[33] Jan Assmann, Das kulturelle Gedächtnis: Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen [Cultural Memory: Writing, Memory and Political Identity in Early Civilizations] (Munich: CH Beck, 1992), 40.

[34] Michel Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, ed. Donald Bouchard (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), 150. See also: Fitzhugh Brundage, “No Deed but Memory,” in Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory, and Southern Identity, ed. Fitzhugh Brundage, (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2000), 11.

[35] DF Malan, Voortrekker Consecration Speech [translated], December 15, 1949; Library of Parliament Archives, Cape Town.  See also: Andrew Crampton, The Voortrekker Monument, the Birth of Apartheid, and Beyond, Political Geography 20 (2001).

[36] Die Burger, August 6, 1964.

[37] Cape Argus, December 16, 1949.

[38] Danie Goosen, Voorlopige aantekeninge oor Politiek (Orania, 2001) 63. (Translation).

[39] Die Burger, September 12, 1998.

[40] Beeld, April 19, 1999; Beeld, April 22, 1999 Beeld, April 29, 1999; for more, see Albert Grundligh, “Remembering Conflict: The Centenary Commemoration of the South African War of 1899-1902 as a Case Study,” Historical Memory in Africa: Dealing With the Past, Reaching for the Future in an Intercultural Context, (New York: Berghahn Books, 2010), 122.

[41] For more, see: Bill Nasson, “Commemorating the Anglo-Boer War in Post-Apartheid South Africa,” Radical History Review 78 (3).

[42] Citizen, October 11, 1999.

[43] Die Burger, October 11, 1999; Beeld, October 12, 1999; Business Day, October 11, 1999; Citizen, October 11, 1999.

[44] Fitzhugh Brundage, “No Deed but Memory,” in Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory, and Southern Identity, ed. Fitzhugh Brundage, (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2000), 352.

One thought on “The Engineer of History”

  1. Dear Dr. Fobi,

    I hope all is well with you.

    I am very sorry to bother you, but I would like to ask if you could kindly email me your PhD thesis, as it will be very useful for my research, as I am researching Dr. Verwoerd’s assassination.

    All the best and apologies again for taking up your time,

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