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Kate Tuttle

Walter Sisulu, known for his commitment to studying and teaching while imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, was called by one of his African National Congress (ANC) colleagues “the organization’s encyclopedia in prison.” A mentor to younger members, such as Mandela and Oliver Tambo, Sisulu joined the ANC in 1940, after his impoverished Johannesburg childhood and his work in the country’s gold mines had introduced him to the injustices that black South Africans faced.

In addition to helping Mandela and Tambo complete their law studies, Sisulu also joined the two in the newly formed ANC Youth League, planning strategy and serving as its treasurer. Elected ANC secretary general in 1949 Sisulu played a key role in coordinating activities with other antiapartheid groups including the Communist Party of South Africa later renamed the South African Communist Party or SACP and the South African Indian Congress This work he ...