A co-founder of the African National Congress’ Youth League, Walter Max Ulyate Sisulu was born on 18 May 1912 in Engcobo, Transkei, South Africa. A one-time miner, day laborer, baker, factory worker, teller, real estate agent, and advertising salesperson, Walter is voted onto the ANC’s national executive in 1948.

As Secretary-General of the ANC, he institutes their “Program of Action”, which advocates the use of boycotts, strikes, and civil disobedience to push for Black’s full citizenship and exercise of the franchise. In 1952, he is convicted as a communist and sentenced to nine months. Due to his sterling public image, the sentence is suspended for three years. His statement to the court included these words: "I wish to make this solemn vow and in full appreciation of the consequences it entails. As long as I enjoy the confidence of my people, and as long as there is a spark of life and energy in me, I shall fight with courage and determination for the abolition of discriminatory laws and for the freedom of all South Africans irrespective of color or creed."

In 1954, he published a book on African Nationalism, and in 1955 Walter is placed under the Suppression of Communism Act and ordered to resign his post as secretary-general of the ANC. In 1956, he, Nelson Mandela, and 154 others are arrested for high treason. He is acquitted in 1961 due to the ANC’s established record of non-violence.

In March of 1963 he is again convicted of subversive activities, and is sentenced to six years of imprisonment. While on bail, he goes underground, and broadcasts a message of resistance to the nation from a secret ANC radio transmitter in June, inspiring the people to continue the fight. In July, police raid an ANC safe house in Rivonia to arrest him, and discover weapons. As a result the leadership of the ANC stand trial for plotting to overthrow the government. The so-called 'Rivonia Trial' receives considerable international attention. He, Mandela, and others are all convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. While in prison, Sisulu obtains a degree in art history and anthropology. He is released from prison in October of 1989.

In February of 1990, de Klerk frees Nelson Mandela and rescinds the order banning the ANC. In 1994, the ANC secures nearly 63% of the vote.

Walter Max Ulyate Sisulu passed on May 5, 2003 at the age of 90.

For more information, visit http://www.sahistory.org.za/pages/mainframe.htm

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