About Me

I am Associate Professor and Chair of the History Department at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. I am also the Academic Director of the Clemente Course in the Humanities, in New Bedford MA. Author of "Social Security and the Middle Class Squeeze" (Praeger, 2005) and the forthcoming "Saul Alinsky the Dilemma of Race in the Post-War City" (University of Chicago Press), my teaching and scholarship focuses on American urban history, social policy, and politics. I am presently writing a book on home ownership in modern America, entitled "Castles Made of Sand? Home Ownership and the American Dream." I live in Providence RI, where I have served on the School Board since March 2015. All opinions posted here are my own.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Peter Gabriel, me, and the anti-apartheid movement

I will be joining my best and oldest brother Dennis at a Peter Gabriel concert next Friday. Gabriel is of course an enormous talent, but no song has meant more to me than 'Biko.' Biko, as you may know, was a black nationalist student activist in South Africa. He was killed by the apartheid regime in the late 70s.

As a college student in the mid/late 80s, my life was consumed by the anti-apartheid movement. My friends and I struggled mightily to get my school -- Vanderbilt University -- to divest from companies doing business in apartheid South Africa. We built shanties; I addressed the Board of Trustees; I went on a hunger strike; we raised money for the ANC. While we failed, subsequent events proved us right.

During my junior year, I had the good fortune to be a student delegate to an anti-apartheid conference at the United Nations. There, I gave a speech about the student movement. I ended it with a quote from Gabriel's song "Biko":

You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher



Zach Blume said...


I'm a current student at Vanderbilt and I'd love to talk to you about getting a history of the anti-apartheid movement at Vanderbilt. My email is zach.blume@vanderbilt.edu. I've been involved with investment activism here.

Zach Blume

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