Exhibit pays tribute to life of anti-apartheid activist

'Helen Suzman: Fighter for Human Rights' to be on display through March

When “anti-apartheid” is used in a sentence with “South Africa,” the name “Nelson Mandela” is invariably invoked. Less renowned, but nonetheless important, was Helen Suzman, the Jewish anti-apartheid activist who helped found the liberal Progressive Party, who was at one point the only member of the South African parliament to oppose apartheid.  

Suzman was active in Parliament for 36 years (1953-1989), defending freedom of expression for all South Africans in a manner unusual for whites. She was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize, was named a Dame of the British Empire and received 27 honorary doctorate degrees from universities around the world.  

“Helen Suzman: Fighter for Human Rights,” an open exhibition displaying 29 panels of Suzman’s life through photographs, personal letters, quotations from speeches and assorted news articles, has been installed in the atrium of Shapiro Campus Center, where it will be on view throughout this month.  

The exhibition was first shown at Georgetown University and since then has made its way to the Rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington D.C., St. Phillips College in Texas, the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and Morehouse College in Atlanta.  

Suzman’s career led to a close friendship with Mandela. She met him in 1967 while he was at Robben Island Prison as a political prisoner. On her 90th birthday, Mandela wrote, “She is a person appreciated by all South Africans. Her courage, integrity, and principled commitment to justice have marked her as one of the outstanding figures of our history.”  

The chronicle of her life and achievements was put together by the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research at the University of Cape Town. The Dobkin Family Foundation and Tolan Family Foundation co-sponsor the United States tour of this exhibition.  

For more information specific to the exhibition, contact Exhibition Manager Jill Vexler at 212-505-6427 or jill@jillvexler.com. For information on her foundation and images of the exhibition, go to www.helensuzmanexhibition.com.


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