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Nelson Mandela, Secretary Baker, and a security officer during Baker's visit to Namibia in celebration of Namibian independence, March 1990 (Photograph: Greg H. Bradford).

South Africa: The Making of U.S. Policy, 1962-1989

Coveted for its resources, supported as an ally, empowered by its nuclear capability and hated for its policy of apartheid, South Africa remains a country of extremes. Reactive in nature, U.S. relations with South Africa provide a case study of a controversial foreign policy that sought to reconcile the pursuit of political and economic interests in a country with a limited commitment to human rights.

Focus of the Collection

The South African document collection contains 2,500 documents totaling more than 12,000 pages. The collection provides primary source documents which describe U.S. support, implementation, enforcement and violations of the U.N.-sponsored sanctions against South Africa. The documents provide a case study of a U.S. foreign policy lacking in strategy and driven by reaction to events.

Access to Critical Events in Recent U.S. Policy Toward South Africa

This set deals with all major events both domestic and foreign relating to South Africa during three time periods. The first period (1962-1976) focuses on the response of the U.S. and the international community to the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and the arrest of the leadership and banning of the ANC and PAC, United Nations Security Council Arms Embargo Resolution against South Africa in 1963, subsequent resolutions, arms sales, technology transfers, commerce and trade, nuclear collaboration, joint U S.-South African covert activities in Angola, Kissinger shuttle diplomacy in southern Africa and U.S. government support for South Africa in international forums.

The second period (1976-1980) deals primarily with the response of the U.S. government and the international community to the South African government's brutal reaction to the June 1976 student revolt, the death of Steve Biko (the leader of the Black Consciousness Movement), South Africa's subsequent security crackdown on opponents of apartheid and the adoption of the U.N. Security Council Resolution that called for a mandatory arms embargo against South Africa. Additionally, primary source documents describe the Carter Administration's prohibition of all sales to South Africa's military and police, the U.N.-proposed economic sanctions, South African Defense Force incursions into neighboring countries, U.S. violations of the U.N. embargo, technology transfers, nuclear collaborations, efforts by the Contact Group to negotiate Namibian independence with the South African government, and aspects of the civil and anti-colonial wars in Zimbabwe and Angola.

The third period (1981-1989) focuses on developments during the Reagan Administration and emphasizes South Africa's circumvention of arms embargoes, technology transfers, nuclear collaboration, U.S.-South African support for rebels in Angola, the developments within South Africa and internationally that led to the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 and the diplomatic maneuvers that led to Namibian independence.

Unprecedented Indexing Makes Every Document Accessible

The Archive prepares extensive, printed finding aids for its collections. Praised by librarians and scholars, these finding aids are valuable, stand-alone reference tools. The Guide contains a detailed events chronology, glossaries of key individuals, organizations, events, legal terms and acronyms, a selected bibliography of relevant secondary sources and a document catalog. The Catalog, organized chronologically, provides bibliographic information about the documents and lists all the indexing phrases generated for each. This facilitates browsing through the document descriptions and allows researchers to preview key details about documents before perusing the microfiche. The Index contains rich contextual references to subjects, individuals and organizations. The detail provided in indexing allows researchers to pinpoint relevant documents in specific areas of study.

The Collection Will Be a Necessity For:

  • Scholars and students of U.S. foreign policy and international relations
  • Africanists and regional specialists on southern Africa
  • Government and business consultants
  • Librarians and bibliographers
  • Investigative reporters
  • Newspaper, television and radio reporters
  • Concerned citizens
  • Documents in this collection include:

  • Embassy cable traffic
  • Memoranda
  • Intelligence reports
  • Briefing papers
  • Congressional reports
  • Proposals for AID funding
  • Situation reports
  • Official letters
  • Press reports
  • Previously unpublished documents originate from:

  • Department of State
  • Department of Defense
  • Defense Intelligence Agency
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Treasury Department
  • The White House
  • Agency for International Development
  • Export-lmport Bank
  • Congressional Committees
  • National Security Council

  • Sample Document Titles



    South Africa: The Making of U.S. Policy, 1962- 1989


    Reproduces on microfiche 2,500 documents totaling more than 12,000 pages recording U.S. policy toward South Africa from the Kennedy Administration through the Reagan years.

    Arrangement and Access:

    Documents are arranged chronologically. For ease of use, the unique identification numbers assigned to the documents are printed in eye-legible type at the top right hand corner and precede each document on the microfiche strip.


    Documents are reproduced on silver halide positive- reading microfiche at a nominal reduction of 24x in envelopes. They are archivally permanent and conform to AIIM, BSI and ANSI standards. Any microfiche found to be physically substandard will be replaced free of charge .


    A printed guide and index totaling approximately 2,000 pages accompanies the microfiche collection. The Guide contains an events chronology, glossaries of names and organizations, a bibliography of secondary sources and a chronological listing of documents. The Index provides in-depth, document-level access to subjects, individuals and organizations.

    Date of Publication:

    Fall 1991

    Orders and Inquiries

    The South Africa Editorial Board

  • Pauline Baker, Senior Fellow Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • N. Brian Winchester, Associate Director African Studies Program Indiana University
  • Witney W. Schneidman, Senior Analyst Investor Responsibility Research Center
  • Michael Clough, Senior Fellow Council on Foreign Relations
  • National Security Archive Project Staff

    Praise for South Africa, 1962-1989

    "An extraordinary resource. The staff of the National Security Archive has spent thousands of hours researching and filing Freedom of Information Act requests and cataloging and indexing them to produce a documentary record of U.S. foreign policymaking unavailable anywhere else...it would have taken individual scholars years to do what the Archive has done.

    N. Brian Winchester, Associate Director
    African Studies Program
    Indiana University

    "Carefully assembling a vast array of formerly classified documents dealing with South African, Namibian, Angolan and Mozambican issues, this collection gives the reader a unique insight into the thinking of various U.S. officials and branches of government on the highly complex and important problems of this area. Taken as a whole, they represent an excellent resource for specialists dealing with the area as well as for classes on international relations, U.S. foreign policy, and southern Africa. This informative set of papers deserves wide utilization."

    Donald Rothchild
    Department of Political Science
    University of California, Davis

    Return to National Security Archive Microfiche Sets.