The Carter-Karis and Karis-Gerhart Collections of South African Political Materials, 1882-1990

A Tale of Two Collections

The Carter-Karis and Karis-Gerhart Collections exemplify the kinds of critical resources that have been developed under the Cooperative Africana Microform Project and made widely available to scholars, educators, and advanced researchers through the Center for Research Libraries.

These collections are the culmination of a long-running, ambitious scholarly enterprise, originating in the 1960s. It was then that American scholars Thomas Karis and Gwendolen M. Carter began production of a history of South Africa’s struggle for democracy, using the words of those who actively participated in that struggle. With assistance from fellow Africanists Sheridan Johns and Gail Gerhart, Karis and Carter assembled an enormous collection of primary source materials for the project. The first four volumes in their series called 'From Protest to Challenge: a Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882-1964' were published between 1972 and 1977 by the Hoover Institution Press, and chronicled the liberation struggle through the conclusion of the famous Rivonia Trial of 1964.

The Carter-Karis Collection

The documents, interviews, and other materials assembled to produce From Protest to Challenge were deposited at Northwestern University in Chicago. In the mid-1970s Susan G. Wynne produced a guide to the collection, titled South African Political Materials: A Catalogue of the Carter-Karis Collection, which was published by the South African Research and Archival Project in 1977. The first three volumes of Wynne’s catalog inventory the primary source materials in the collection and provide historical context. Volume 4 includes biographies, serving as a political “who’s who” of the 1882-1964 period. The collection on 71 reels is available for purchase or loan to Center members.

The Karis-Gerhart Collection

During the 1980s Karis and Gerhart began work on three supplemental editions of From Protest to Challenge. These histories cover the years 1964-1990, including the post-Rivonia Trial period and collapse of the apartheid regime. The resources and documents assembled for this effort constitute the Karis-Gerhart Collection: South African Political Materials 1964-1990. The supplemental histories were published jointly by Indiana University Press and the University of South Africa Press in 1997 and 2000.

In their introduction to the collection catalog, Karis and Gerhart note that the several hundred primary source documents cited in their histories represent only a tiny fraction of the available materials in the collection. Recorded on 101 reels of microfilm, the collection is available for purchase or on loan to members of the Center and the Cooperative Africana Microform Project (CAMP). An online edition of the Karis-Gerhart guide is available on the Center Web site.

In addition to the Karis-Gerhart Collection, the Center’s holdings include thousands of other apartheid-era materials.