South African Poet and Activist Dennis Brutus Discusses Racism and Global Trade in the Newlight of Terrorism

November 05, 2001

In apartheid South Africa of the 60s, Dennis Brutus was an outspoken activist against the racist state. He helpedsecure South Africa’s suspension from the Olympics, eventually forcing the country to be expelled from the games in1970. He was arrested in 1963 and sentenced to 18 months of hard labor on Robben Island off Capetown, with NelsonMandela. Brutus was banned from teaching, writing, and publishing in South Africa. His first collection of poetry,

??Sirens, Knuckles and Boots was published in Nigeria while he was in prison.

After he was released, Brutus fled South Africa on a Rhodesian passport. In 1983, after a protracted legal struggle,Brutus won the right to stay in the United States as a political refugee. He is now a professor of African Studiesand African Literature, and is Chair of the Department of Black Community Education Research and Development at theUniversity of Pittsburgh. He was the first non-African American to receive the Langston Hughes Award in 1987 and wasreceived the first Paul Robeson Award in 1989, for "artistic excellence, political consciousness and integrity."

Recently, Brutus’s activism has focused on the economic and environmental impact of the IMF and World Bank policiesin developing countries.


  • Dennis Brutus, poet, activist and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Africana Studies at theUniversity of Pittsburgh.