Chicago Anti-Apartheid Movement

Document Type



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Publication Date

Spring 2010


University of Chicago, Common Cause, Clergy and Laity Concerned (U.S.), Krugerrand (Coin), Harold Washington, Desmond Tutu, Green Party USA


Political Science | Political Theory | Race and Ethnicity | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Work, Economy and Organizations


Length: 102 minutes

Oral history interview of Elizabeth Benson by Micah Ariel James

Ms. Benson begins by recalling her early years, her childhood in Kansas City and Chicago, and the death of her father. She outlines her educational and career path, earning a degree in French at the University of Chicago and working a number of different jobs as a teacher, working for the federal government, for the state government departments, and as a secretary for a church. She mentions her time living in France, Germany, and Washington State, before returning to Chicago. Her activism began with Citizens Alert, who organized picketing and vigils at the South African consulate, and with Common Cause and Clergy and Laity Concerned. She describes the various causes she was involved with and the protests against the sale of Krugerrand [a South African coin to help market South African gold]. She recalls her reactions to Harold Washington’s election and death, Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, and the day Apartheid officially ended. She describes her more recent activist work on police accountability and her involvement with the 8th Day Center’s Good Friday Walk for Justice. She concludes by reflecting on the role activism has played in her life, the variety of work she continues to do, and the numerous instances of social injustice still as play.

Biography and Comments

Elizabeth Benson was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1916 and raised primarily in Chicago. She was involved in numerous activism organizations, including Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Common Cause Illinois, Free South Africa, and Clergy and Laity Concerned.

The interviewer conducted this oral history as part of his/her coursework for the Spring 2010 class, Oral History: The Art of the Interview. This interview supports the scope and content of the Chicago Anti-Apartheid Movement Collection at the College Archives & Special Collections department of Columbia College Chicago. Contact for more information and to view the collection.

Additional Files

Interview with Elizabeth Benson.pdf (352 kB)



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