Journal of African Studies
Online ISSN : 1884-5533
Print ISSN : 0065-4140
The Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa
Kumiko Makino
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1997 Volume 1997 Issue 50 Pages 3-18


It is well-known that the African National Congress (ANC) played a decisive role in the history of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, from the Defiant Campaign to the first democratic general election in 1994. However, the ANC was not always active throughout the history of apartheid; after being banned in 1960, the ANC had little influence over South African internal politics for the ensuing twenty years.
It was during that period of political vacuum that the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) based on the “Black Consciousness” philosophy appeared in South Africa. Evaluation on the BCM can be categorized into two types. The first is a negative one which refers to its lack of organized collective actions beyond university campuses, and the second is a positive one which points to the revolutionary character of its ideology. To fill the gap between these two, we need another approach. The purpose of this paper is to re-examine the BCM by using the concepts of social movement theory such as “consensus mobilization” and “action mobilization, ” by which the contradictory views of the movement could be integrated.
Following the brief introduction of the key concepts which help us see the importance of making consensus among participants as a pre-condition for generating concrete collective actions, the BCM as a black (that is, Africans, so-called Coloureds, and Indians) student movement is to be examined. The most important resource that the BCM made use of in mobilizing consensus among black university students was the common experience of the Bantu Education. After the widespread boycott in black universities in 1972 which was a result of successful action mobilization, the target of the movement was broadened to the entire society. In this stage Christianity, especially in the form of Black Theology, contributed enormously to conscientisation of blacks, and thus played a pivotal role in the consensus mobilization process. Although direct action mobilization was not brought about during this period, opposition movements which were to be seen in the 1980s shared the norms derived from the BCM, and this ultimately led to the collapse of apartheid policies.

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