The following is the text of a letter sent to the New York Times. The Times did not print the letter.
To the Editor:
Re: Legacy of Reagan Now Begins the Test of Time (June 11). Largely missing from the coverage of Reagan is his "constructive engagement" policy toward the apartheid regime in South Africa. This came at a time of massive internal resistance and savage government response. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in 1984 that constructive engagement "has encouraged the white racist regime into escalated intransigence and oppression."
Since the 1960s the African National Congress had called for sanctions to weaken racist rule. Colleges, states and cities imposed "people's sanctions" by divesting the stock of companies doing business in and withdrawing deposits in banks making loans to South Africa. Responding to the internal struggle and external efforts to isolate apartheid companies withdraw and banks stopped making new loans. Public outrage compelled Congress to pass the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 that imposed sanctions over Reagan's veto at a time the Republicans controlled the Senate.
Apartheid ended in 1994 with the democratic elections and Nelson Mandela became president, but no thanks to Reagan. The triumph of freedom belongs to the South African people, supported by millions around the world who forced their political leaders to impose sanctions.
New York, NY, June 11, 2004
The author, director of the African Activist Archive Project, worked for 26 years at the American Committee on Africa, a major national anti-apartheid organization.