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Archives: Dennis Brutus Collection

Worcester State University Archives and Special Collections

Who was Dennis Brutus?

Dennis Brutus (1924-2009) was a South African political activist, poet, and scholar best known for his work with the anti-Apartheid movement. He first gained notoriety in the 1960s as a founding member of the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SAN-ROC) when he initiated a successful international boycott of South Africa's racially-exclusive teams from the Olympic Games. Arrested and jailed multiple times for his activism, Brutus and his family went into exile in 1966, eventually settling in the United States. As a scholar, Brutus taught at the University of Denver, Northwestern University, and the University of Pittsburgh, receiving honorary degrees from Worcester State University, The University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Northeastern University. Brutus published 12 collections of poetry and contributed articles and commentary to multiple publications throughout his life. He eventually returned to South Africa where he remained active in teaching and social justice issues until his death. 

It was through his friendship with former Worcester State University professor Dr. Merrill H. Goldwyn (1931-2012) that Brutus participated in programs for WSU's Center for the Study of Human Rights and eventually donated a portion of his personal papers to the Library's Special Collections. 

For more information about Dennis Brutus, visit the Britannica Online article. 

Dennis Brutus at WSU

What is in the collection?

This collection includes two different collections: Personal papers Brutus donated during his lifetime as well as his faculty papers from the University of Pittsburgh donated after his death. Both collections include personal and professional correspondence, original and published poetry and prose, scholarly works, and a large volume of clippings, fliers, periodicals, and other materials related to social justice causes, especially the Anti-Apartheid movement during the 1980s. 

Finding aids for these collections are currently being developed. For questions about access, please contact the Archivist

Dennis Brutus

Dennis Brutus visiting WSU in 1999. 

What was Apartheid?

Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial segregation practiced in South Africa between 1948 and 1991. Built upon long-standing laws and social customs of racial discrimination, Apartheid (literally "Apartness") was established in 1948 and dictated racial segregation in public facilities, housing, and employment across South Africa. Organized opposition to the system was suppressed--often brutally--by the South African government while, internationally, boycotts aimed at South African sports, businesses, tourism, and consumer goods gradually isolated the nation. In 1990, negotiations between South Africa's ruling National Party and opposition African National Congress led to the gradual dismantling of Apartheid, culminating in the nation's first multi-racial elections in 1994. 

For more information about Apartheid, visit the Britannica online article