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The State versus Neville Alexander and ten others: The causes and consequences of a political trial

This book project concerns the 1963-64 trial of Neville Alexander and ten other members of the National Liberation Front (NLF). Neglected in the scholarly literature, the NLF was distinctive in two respects. Firstly, its members had not engaged in armed activity. Its primary activities were the writing, dissemination and discussion of literature about guerrilla strategy. Its members were convicted not on the grounds that they had endangered public safety, but on the possibility that they might do so. Indeed, the presiding judge stressed that as ‘intellectuals’ the defendants could ‘influence and persuade others.’ The trial was thus an attempt to suppress black intellectuals concerned with developing new approaches to political change following the 1960 Sharpeville-Langa massacres. Secondly, the NLF’s gender composition was unusual: four out of its eleven imprisoned members were women. By contrast, the founding members of Umkhonto we Sizwe were all male; communist Ruth First was a notable exception in the Congress Alliance of a woman involved in discussions of armed struggle. A gendered analysis will offer a more nuanced understanding of the NLF, which has been known mainly through the personality of accused number one.


Fellows involved in this project

United Kingdom

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Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].