Mandela Round Table: Nelson Mandela and the Legacies of Liberation - Panel 2

'Pulling the branch of a tree' 'troublemaker' the legacies of 'inconvenient truths' - Nelson Mandela, Bernie Grant & Raising the Black Voice in Britain
Elizabeth Williams (Goldsmiths, University of London)

While he lived and in death Nelson Mandela was admired and eulogised arguably more than any other man of his generation. Bernard Grant never reached the same level of adulation as Mandela and in some quarters he was pilloried, a hate figure because of his stance and campaigns he undertook to represent the grievances of his constituents. Unlike Mandela before he died, Grant was never able to gain acceptance in the mainstream white ruling establishment and translate his pariah-hood into the symbolic "sainthood" of Mandela.
The lives of Mandela & Grant were forged and shaped by the legacies of British economic, political, cultural and social imperialism. Moreover, their lives and subsequent voice of uncompromising justice and the reaction to their polemic demonstrate the way in which historically the Black male voice and presence in British society has been viewed and refracted through negative and pejorative opinion and analyses. Mandela and Grant may seem polar opposites in the popular imagination but to the ruling classes at different points in their lives they represented trouble with a capital 'T' attempting to challenge how business was conducted and the way society worked with its entrenched inequalities. The lack of Black British representation and power within the agencies of the state, meant strident Black voices such as Mandela and Grant "calling out" and shining a critical light on the powerful and their governance (which fell short in the service of sections of the population), did not endear to the powerful.

This paper, a harbinger of a continuing project, will look at the lives of these two men, examining the parallels and how their lives epitomised the way in which Black lives and voices in British public life continue to be shaped by forces within the society determined to maintain the status quo and to nullify the inconvenient truths of the lived Black experience within British society.

Decoding the Pimpernel: locating the evasive Mandela in international context 
Rob Skinner (University of Bristol)

This paper will examine two unconnected episodes in the Mandela life story - first, the period in the early 1960s during which, travelling as David Motsamayi, Mandela toured Africa and visited Britain; and second, the memorialisation of and absent Mandela in Britain during the 1980s. In both cases, Mandela's own life and personal biography was interwoven with those of disparate individual, national and global historical narratives. Unravelling these narratives, and making sense of the international 'meanings of Mandela' is a necessary task if we are to make sense of the historical contexts that shaped his life - and to set that life within the broader context of South African and global history.

Discussant: Martin Plaut (Institute of Commonwealth Studies)

Elizabeth Williams (Goldsmiths, University of London), Rob Skinner (University of Bristol), Martin Plaut (Institute of Commonwealth Studies)
Event date: 
Monday, 24 April 2017 - 4:00pm
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