About the Collection

An element of the Chicago Anti-Apartheid Movement Collection, the Orlando Redekopp Collection is comprised of materials related to Redekopp's time as an activist and South African election observer. During the 1980s and 1990s, Redekopp, along with his wife Joan Gerig, lived in Chicago and participated in various local efforts to help end conscription and apartheid abroad. As a pastor in the First Church of the Brethren on Chicago's west side, Redekopp and his wife Joan facilitated many of their messages against apartheid and conscription through their religious community.

Collection Inventory

The Orlando Redekopp Collection online inventory guide shows the contents of the collection held at Columbia College Chicago. Please contact us with any questions.

Biography

Orlando Redekopp was born in 1946 in Kansas while his father was completing school. His family moved to Winnipeg during his early childhood, where he was raised. Orlando attended the Princess Margaret School for his elementary education and a Mennonite church high school. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Winnipeg, where he majored in economics with a minor in statistics.

During his last year of college, Orlando signed up for a call of volunteers of Christian service to teach in other countries and was assigned to Colombia in South America after his graduation. After teaching in Colombia, he moved back to Winnipeg where he took a course in English literature and taught part-time. He entered the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana in 1971. At seminary, he met and later married Joan Gerig. Together, they have one daughter, born in 1980.

After completing seminary, he returned to Winnipeg to work in a church-based prison ministry program for two years. In 1977, his wife Joan suggested they travel to Botswana with the church to aid South African refugees who fled after the 1976 Soweto Uprising. They set up and worked at a school for high school students until the end of 1979. They then moved to Umtata, South Africa, for six months to prepare, with the South African Council of Churches, a set of resources on apartheid’s policy of forced removals. They returned to Canada mid-1980, and spent four months educating church, school, and youth groups in Canada and the USA on apartheid.

Orlando began pastoral work at the First Church of the Brethren, in East Garfield Park, Chicago early 1982, until retiring in 2011. During the 1980s and 1990s, Orlando and Joan joined and participated in many Chicago anti-apartheid organizations. Orlando also challenged his denomination to support divestment and South Africa’s conscientious objectors. In 1994, Orlando joined many others as international election observers in South Africa’s first democratic general election through the Ecumenical Monitoring Programme in (EMPSA).

After retirement from the First Church of the Brethren, Orlando volunteered with Omnia (formerly known as SCUPE), guiding Swiss Reformed pastors on sabbatical around Chicago. He also represents the denomination on the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.

Related Resources

Chicago Anti- Apartheid Movement online exhibit features protest boards, posters, flyers, pamphlets and images.

Oral History interviews conducted by Columbia College Chicago students for the course, Oral History: The Art of the Interview, with members of the Chicago apartheid protest community, including Orlando Redekopp's invterview

Timeline of Apartheid in South Africa exhibit explains the history of the South African apartheid government.

African Political Posters collected by Chicago anti-apartheid activists

Chicago Anti-Apartheid Movement Collection Highlights the grassroots organizations during the 1980s and 1990s that formed to protest international issues of apartheid and how activists operated to reach a common goal.

Rozell (Prexy) Nesbitt Collection An activist and organizer of anti-apartheid groups in the Midwest and abroad.

Cheryl Johnson-Odim Collection A Chicago area community activist and educator.

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1994 South Africa General Election

End Conscription Campaign