Anti-Apartheid Exhibition at Leeds Museum

Leeds Guide.

A project to raise awareness of the anti-apartheid movement in Leeds officially launched this week at the Leeds City Museum.

The display documents the history of the movement throughout the 1970s and 80s and has been created to celebrate the partnership between Leeds and the largest city in South Africa, Durban. The exhibition comes 10 years after Nelson Mandela – the most influential anti-apartheid campaigner of them all – visited Leeds in 2001.

Each item in the display helps to tell the revolutionary story of the anti-apartheid movement, including a letter written by Nelson Mandela and a copy of a letter written on a piece of cloth by Lionel ‘Rusty’ Bernstein that he smuggled to his wife in his dirty laundry. Organisers of Voices Against Apartheid hope the project will help to raise public awareness of the historic movement, especially in the younger generations through the involvement of local schools. Put together by Leeds City Council’s international relations team, the project also includes a 20-minute documentary.

Local schools, including Prince Henry’s Grammar School, Garforth Academy and Primrose High School, helped to create the DVD. Pupils took part in media skills workshops and interviewed key influential figures from the Leeds anti-apartheid movement. Those who appear in the documentary include Peter Hain MP, Councillor Bernard Atha, Carole Summerill and Frances Bernstein.

Labour MP Peter Hain was a noted anti-apartheid campaigner in the 1970s and 80s. His parents were anti-apartheid activists in South Africa but, after being jailed, prevented from working and harassed by the police, then fled the country and came to the UK.

Carole Summerill was one of the founding members of the Leeds anti-apartheid movement. She was a huge supporter of cutting economic links between the city and apartheid South Africa. Frances Bernstein was part of a campaigning family. Her father, Lionel ‘Rusty’ Bernstein, was on trial with Nelson Mandela, and he was imprisoned along with her mother for much of Frances’s childhood. Frances later moved to the UK and joined the anti-apartheid movement in Leeds.

Councillor Bernard Atha was the Lord Mayor of Leeds when Nelson Mandela visited in 2001. He was involved in the local anti-apartheid movement and was incredibly influential in the renaming of Mandela Gardens and was a fundamental part of the council’s resolution to stop the purchase South African products.

The new Mayor of Durban, Councillor James Nxumalo, and the Deputy South African High Commissioner, Ms Bongiwe Quabe, spoke at the event’s launch. They will both be spending more time in Leeds to develop the important partnership they have with the city. Councillor Nxumalo said: “I look forward to developing the relationship between these two great cities even further.”

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said he has high hopes for the project as he opened the event. He said: “Voices Against Apartheid is an excellent project which I am pleased to support. It will raise awareness to a whole new generation and ensure the efforts within Leeds to stop apartheid are never forgotten.”

Voices Against Apartheid will be on show at the Leeds City Museum on Thursday until 5th September.

To learn more about the project visit

Leeds City Museum, Millennium Square, LS2 8BH, 0113 224 3732


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