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Racial Equity: South Africa and the United States

Visitors at Constitution Hill look at the display at the Women’s Goal Museum which used to house female political prisoners.

South Africa

Atlantic began its work in racial equity in the nascent years of post-Apartheid South Africa. In 1991, Atlantic’s Founding President, Harvey Dale, initiated grantmaking in the country, believing opportunity to be “engaged in a potentially game-changing period in a society emerging from Apartheid repression.” The earliest grants made focused on assisting aspiring young black South African attorneys get law degrees as well as clerkships on the new multiracial Constitutional Court. Later, we began our Delivering on Democracy programme, which focused on supporting activists working to ensure the country lived up to the rights and protections promised in the country’s 1996 Constitution. However, we realized that the memory of apartheid should not be erased, so we also supported work by archives and museum as they preserve and tell the history of the struggles to end apartheid.

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  • Among their strategic public-interest litigations to promote equity for rural populations, Legal Resources Centre successfully restored ancestral land confiscated by the colonial authorities from the Namaqua community in Richtersveld, Northern Cape.
  • Since its formation in 2008, the social movement Equal Education has campaigned to erase the gaps in education that still remain decades after the end of apartheid. Through their efforts, the Regulations Relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure law was passed in 2013.
  • The University of KwaZulu-Natal established the Centre for Civil Society, which aims to advance justice through teaching, research and publishing.
  • In the early 2000s, the University of the Western Cape began to evolve into a leading South Africa while simultaneously increasing admittance of students from oppressed backgrounds. Currently, it produces the largest amount of black scientists in the country.
  • In 2004, on the site of two of Johannesburg’s most notorious apartheid-era prisons, Constitution Hill opened in order to educate on the history of South Africa’s journey to democracy. Significantly, it is also the site of South Africa’s Constitutional Court.
  • The National Peace Accord Trust has worked in easing the often difficult reintegration into society of ex-combatants who had fought to end the country’s apartheid system.

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Protesters demonstrate against racismin Downtown St. Louis. AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL B. THOMAS
Protesters demonstrate against racism in Downtown St. Louis. AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL B. THOMAS

The United States

In 2010, inspired by our earlier work in racial equity in post-apartheid South Africa, Atlantic began focusing its grant-making in race and criminal justice reform within the United States. Closely related to this is Atlantic’s work in school disciplinary reform, which has largely affected students of color. To date, Atlantic has invested approximately $350 million towards dismantling barriers and increasing opportunities for communities of color in the US. Particular focus has been given on ending the school-to-prison pipeline, reforming the justice system, ending racial profiling, and expanding voters’ rights.

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