Daniels Recalls Activism
For 15 years, Eddie Daniels was a political prisoner. He recently visited Luther to share his story.
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“At a young age, I fought for what is right, what is clean, what is decent,” Daniels said. “I fought for the dignity of people, but I also fought for my own self-respect.”
In the second half of the 20th century, a vicious period of racial segregation known as Apartheid plagued the country of South Africa. Many resisted the government under Apartheid, risking imprisonment on Robben Island, which has been used for the isolation of political prisoners.
Daniels presented two lectures on his experience on Wednesday, Sept. 26. He also spoke to several classes and signed copies of his memoir, There and Back, in the Luther Book Shop. Until Oct. 29, he will be touring around the country, speaking wherever he is invited.
“I rarely say no to an invitation,” Daniels said. “I’m happy to come over to the United States because the hospitality of the people here is tremendous. I’ve come here the past 9 to 10 years, and I am overwhelmed by the understanding, tolerance and kindness toward me.”
As a member of the Liberal Party of South Africa, Daniels participated in marches, sit-ins, demonstrations, and other protests against Apartheid. In 1961, with the help of the National Committee of Liberation, later known as the African Resistance Movement, he began participating in various acts of sabotage against the government.
“We blew up the signal cables of the railways,” Daniels said. “The trains couldn’t run and people couldn’t get to work. We were causing the government quite a headache.”
Daniels was arrested in 1964, following a series of government raids. He underwent 92 days of questioning and detention before being formally tried.
At the time, the standard punishment for sabotage was the death penalty, but Daniels was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 5 years of house arrest. It was during his imprisonment on Robben Island that he was befriended by Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa following Apartheid.
Walker Nyenhuis/ Chips
“I was the only prisoner of my organization on Robben Island,” Daniels said. “I had no political muscle, no influence and no education. [Mandela] came down to my level to comfort me.”
Throughout his visit to Luther, Daniels frequently complimented Mandela on his generosity and kindness. He was humbled by the political leader’s sense of humanity and dedication to reconciliation after the fall of the apartheid government.
“When he had his enemies at his feet, he could have smited them,” Daniels said. “Instead, he embraced them. This is the greatness of Mr. Nelson Mandela.”
Daniels noted that the end of Apartheid was not solely a South African affair. He referenced many instances of businesses and foreign powers that refused to cooperate with the Apartheid government because of its cruelty. He expressed his gratitude for the assistance to his audience.
“All of this pressure against the South African government helped us to defeat the Apartheid,” Daniels said. “Through you, I thank the world.”
Throughout his struggles, Daniels strove to maintain his integrity and work with those who did the same. He encouraged his audiences to stand up for what they believe, even though it is not always easy.
“When you stand up for goodness and decency, you will face enemies,” Daniels said. “Be guided by your conscience.”