How We Live
5:24 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Mandela Singled Out Massachusetts For Anti-Apartheid Support

Nelson Mandela, center, dances to African folk music during the rally and concert at the Hatch Shell on Boston’s Esplanade Saturday, June 23, 1990. Mandela was joined by U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, left, and Boston Mayor Ray Flynn. Charles Krupa/AP
Nelson Mandela, center, dances to African folk music during the rally and concert at the Hatch Shell on Boston’s Esplanade Saturday, June 23, 1990. Mandela was joined by U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, left, and Boston Mayor Ray Flynn.
Credit Charles Krupa / AP

It was June 1990 – South Africa’s Nelson Mandela had been a free man for just four months when he came to Boston – singling out Massachusetts and the region for its faithful anti-Apartheid support.

As many as 250,000 people from all over the region gathered on the Esplanade to welcome Mandela and his then wife Winnie – waving  flags with the colors of the African National Congress.  South Africa was at the threshold of  fundamental change, but the separatist Apartheid government was still a threat, Mandela told the crowd. 

“We must continue to keep pressure on Apartheid.  Sanctions must be kept in place until fundamental irrefutable change takes place in our country,” Mandela told the crowd.

That change was backed by leaders of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he said. 

“We would like to take this opportunity to give special thanks to Governor Mike Dukakis, to Mayor Ray Flynn, to Senator Ted Kennedy, and Mel King for their steadfastness in support of our cause (…) let us join in happy celebration of our common victory.”

Dancing on stage with Mandela was Gov. Dukakis, Mayor Flynn, Sen. Kennedy, Mel King, the Reverend Jesse Jackson – and onetime WBZ anchorwoman and now Reverend Liz Walker .

That was 23 years ago.

"We understand that it is at this site of the Esplanade that Boston celebrates Independence Day on July 4th – though we will be miles away from here we shall join in the celebration in which American people defending a faith in the precious idea of freedom and democracy which inspired your own country two centuries ago – sis and bros … we consider ourselves as visiting our second home."