AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

African National Congress Papers

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0101 ICS 1
Held at: Institute of Commonwealth Studies
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: African National Congress Papers
Date(s): 1920-1976
Level of description: Collection (Fonds)
Extent: 4 boxes or 0.06 cubic metres, 7 microfilm reels
Name of creator(s): African National Congress
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

The African National Congress (ANC) was formed in 1912 as the South African Native National Congress (it changed its name to the ANC in 1923) with the aim of replacing tribal opposition to white rule with a united African force. At first its membership was narrow - its leaders drawn from among traditional chiefs and wealthy Africans, its aims were limited and its activities were law-abiding. An attempt by J.T. Gumede to create a mass anti-imperialist movement was defeated by the moderates in 1930, following which the ANC lapsed into inactivity.
With an enlarged membership, a new President-General, Dr A.P. Xuma, and the adoption in 1943 of a new constitution and political programme - calling for full political rights for the first time - the ANC began its transformation into mass movement. It began to co-operate with other organisations, like the Communist Party and the South African Indian Congress. The Congress Youth League, formed in 1944, played an increasingly powerful role within the ANC: in 1949, its Programme of Action, with mass opposition to apartheid at its heart, was adopted as ANC policy. The `Defiance' campaign of 1952 was the result and, though eventually broken by the state forces, it did give the ANC a mass membership. Under the Presidency of Albert Lutuli and the leadership of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and others, the ANC became the leading resistance force in South Africa. The alliances it developed with other organisations, including the South African Indian Congress and the Congress of Democrats, led to the formation of the Congress Alliance, whose delegates adopted the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People in 1955. This was adopted as the ANC's programme in 1956. In the same year, the Charter was used as the basis of a charge of treason against 156 members of the Congress Alliance. All of the accused in the 'Treason Trials' were acquitted, but in April 1960 the ANC was forced underground when it was banned as an `unlawful organisation' following the pass law campaign and the Sharpeville massacre.
Many leaders went into exile and an external mission under Oliver Tambo and a military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), under Mandela were formed. After the arrest at Rivonia in 1963 of Mandela, Sisulu and other leaders and their imprisonment, ANC activities were for a while based mainly on the work of the external mission and the development of MK. However, following the rise of mass opposition among workers and students in the 1970s and 80s, the ANC's position as the leading anti-apartheid force was confirmed after the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and his and the ANC's subsequent victory in the election of 1994.
The South African Indian Congress was formed when the Natal, Transvaal and Cape Indian Congresses merged in 1920. Like the ANC, it was at first a moderate organisation until the rise of radical leaders like Dr Yusuf Dadoo and Dr G.M. Naicker in the 1940s. As well as organising passive resistance and strikes by Indian workers from 1946 onwards, they developed links with other resistance movements, first through the Non-European Unity Movement, then with the ANC. In 1947 Dadoo, Naicker and Xuma of the ANC agreed a pact for joint action by the South African Indian Congress and the ANC. The SA Indian Congress joined the Defiance Campaign in1952 and then the Congress Alliance in 1953. It had members among the Treason Trial defendants and in MK when it was formed in 1961. Though never banned, its leaders and membership were broken by state repression in the early 1960s. The Natal Indian Congress was revived in 1971 and the Transvaal Indian Congress in 1983. Both were prominent in the establishment of the United Democratic Front in the mid-1980s.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of the African National Congress, 1920-1976; comprising;
1. Papers of South African Indian organisations - resolutions, reports, petitions, memoranda, conference proceedings and agenda, etc., of the South African Indian Congress (1946, 1956), South African Indian Organisation (1951, 1959), Transvaal Indian Congress (1939-1963), Natal Indian Congress (1940-1961), Colonial Born and Settlers' Indian Association (1933-1934), South African Passive Resistance Council (1946), South African Indian Conference (1948), etc.
2. Treason Trials (1954-1961) - including Treason Trial Defence Fund papers, papers relating to evidence, addresses at Natal Indian Congress and ANC conferences (1954), letters to Thomas Hodgkin in Oxford, England, mainly from Michael Parkington regarding the trial (1959)
3. Miscellaneous Documents (1953, 1972-1976) - mainly ANC public statements and publicity material
4. Government of India, Department of Education, Health and Lands, Overseas Section/Branch - microfilm copy of files from National Archives of India relating to Indians in South Africa.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
Mostly English, some French, Portugese and Xhosa

System of arrangement:

Arranged in the series described above.

Conditions governing access:

Open although advanced notice should be given. Access to individual items may be restricted under the Data Protection Act or Freedom of Information legislation.

Conditions governing reproduction:

A photocopying service is available, at the discretion of the Library staff. Copies are supplied solely for the purposes of research and private study. Requests to publish or quote from original material should be made to the Information Resources Manager.

Finding aids:

Catalogued to file level (see link to repository catalogue).

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited by the ANC in 1976 as a contribution to the Southern African Materials Project (1973-76)

Allied Materials

Related material:

At the Institute of Commonweath Studies several collections include material on or directly related to the ANC, or the subject of Indians in Southern Africa: Abdulla Abdurahman (ICS 2); Mandela Treason Trials (ICS 52); Z K Matthews (ICS 55); Ruth First (ICS 117); Mary Benson (ICS 6); Southern Rhodesia Legal Aid and Welfare Fund (ICS 107); Kenneth Manyonda (ICS 108).

ANC Archives at University of Fort Hare, Eastern Cape, South Africa; other ANC materials are held at the Mayibuye Centre ,University of Western Cape, South Africa

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Alan Kucia as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description,ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Created 3/09/2001 AIM25

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Placename Search

* To search for other records with similar placenames, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"