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  February 4, 2002

Second Mellon Grant Funds Work With
African National Congress Archives
By Allison Thompson

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a three-year, $700,000 grant to the University of Connecticut-African National Congress Partnership to support preservation of and access to the archives of the South African liberation organization. Funds from the Mellon grant, which was awarded in December, will be used to organize the ANC's extensive archive.

The grant is the second the Partnership has received from the Mellon Foundation, which gave a $665,000 grant in June 2000. The Partnership, which includes oral history, archival and comparative human rights components, promotes international understanding and cooperation between South Africa and the United States. The initial Mellon grant supported an oral history program to record interviews with ANC leaders and party members and a planning grant for the archives project.

"The work of the African National Congress represents one of history's most extraordinary human rights achievements," says President Philip E. Austin. "The University is honored to collaborate with the ANC in this archival project, and the Mellon Foundation grant provides invaluable assistance to our joint effort to preserve vital historical materials for future generations."

Amii Omara-Otunnu, UNESCO Chair in Comparative Human Rights and executive director of the UConn-ANC Partnership, says "the grant will enable the University of Connecticut and the African National Congress to realize a common, shared vision - preserving historical materials that shed light on the struggles for human rights and suggest strategies for peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world."

Founded in 1912, the ANC was the leading organization in the struggle to end apartheid. Now the ruling political party in South Africa, the ANC has long been a source of inspiration in situations of political and racial conflict.

Because of its work to end discrimination, the ANC was banned by the apartheid government and much of its work was conducted outside of South Africa. As a result, ANC documents were scattered in more than 30 countries.

The ANC archives encompass correspondence between party leaders, minutes of committee meetings, and financial records, including information regarding the efforts to develop support outside Africa to bring international pressure to bear against apartheid. Among the documents are papers of individual leaders.

Under the terms of the Partnership, the University of Connecticut will be the official North American repository of ANC archival materials, to be housed in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. The University will provide technical assistance for the archival work and will manage the Mellon grant funds. The work will be conducted primarily in South Africa, however, in a collaboration between UConn, the ANC, and the University of Fort Hare.

Part of the grant money will be used to hire up to 10 additional staff members in South Africa who will organize, catalog and preserve ANC archival material at the ANC Archives in Johannesburg and at the University of Fort Hare in Alice, the repository of the processed archival materials. Funds will also go toward purchasing supplies and equipment needed to ensure the long-term preservation of those materials. In addition, staff will begin selecting documents that will be posted on a joint website run by the three partners.

UConn will use part of the grant money to hire a staff member for the Partnership's archival project, who will work with Tom Wilsted, director of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, who is also director of the Partnership's archive project. That person will seek out ANC-related material in North America that will be returned to South Africa or copied for the ANC Archives.

"Thanks to generous support from the Mellon Foundation, we have made significant progress during the past six months," says Wilsted. "We are very pleased to have a major grant that will help us work with the ANC to preserve this important and unique material and help make it accessible to researchers."