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Gay J. McDougall South Africa and Namibia Papers, 1932-2006 [Bulk: 1980-1994].

Summary Information

At a Glance

Title:Gay J. McDougall South Africa and Namibia Papers, 1932-2006 [Bulk: 1980-1994].
Physical description:268 linear ft.
Language(s):Primarily in English with some items in Afrikaans.


This collection is arranged in three series:


Scope and Content

The Gay J. McDougall Papers document the South African anti-apartheid movement in the 1960s through the 1990s. The records primarily include correspondence, writings and speeches, administrative records, court documents and case files, and newspaper clippings related to human rights, anti-apartheid activism, political prisoners, the 1989 Namibian election and the 1994 South African election. The collection documents the work of McDougall, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Southern Africa Project, (a non-governmental organization (NGO), and the Commission for Independence in Namibia.

Please note, this finding aid and container list are preliminary.

Series I: Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Southern Africa Project, 1969-2006

This series is the bulk of the collection and is divided into ten subseries. The materials in this series document the Southern Africa Project, which Gay McDougall directed. The materials offer extensive documentation of the Lawyers Committee's anti-apartheid work in South Africa and its relationship to anti-apartheid movements in the United States.

Subseries I.1: Administrative,1969-2006

The administrative subseries contains financial, fundraising, personnel, and travel records; records; drafts and final copies of annual reports, press releases, and publications; information about conferences and events organized by the Lawyers Committee; and testimonies before various government bodies.

Subseries I.2: Namibia, 1967-1994

The Namibia subseries pertains to the Lawyers Committee and the Southern Africa Project's work in Namibia, both generally and specifically through the Commission on Independence for Namibia. The series largely documents the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 435 leading to elections in Namibia and its independence from South Africa. There are extensive newspaper clippings from the implementation from African sources. Also included are reports on the transition process written and distributed by the Commission on Independence for Namibia.

Subseries I.3: Case Files, 1967-1994

This section consists of two main types of case files. First, there are files kept regarding hundreds of human rights related cases in South Africa that were part of the SAP's Legal Assistance program, which provided financial assistance to South African lawyers to defend political activists and political prisoners. Second, there are files documenting domestic cases (regarding nuclear energy, racial discrimination, and other topics) in which the Lawyers Committee played a role as a party to the suit or monitored closely because of the case's relevance to South Africa.

Types of materials are correspondence, background information and summaries of cases, legal fees and wire transfer receipts, press clippings, and court documents and pleadings. There are also files for individual attorneys, information about cases that were not funded, guidelines for assistance, and statistics. For additional case files pertaining to Namibia, see Subseries I.2 Namibia.

Subseries I.4: Chronological Files/Correspondence Files, 1973-1994

These files are primarily correspondence kept in chronological order by Southern Africa Project staff.

Subseries I.5: Lawyers Against Apartheid, 1984-1986

This small section of material relates to efforts to organized lawyers and law students in the United States in the effort to end apartheid in South Africa. Included are signed petitions and lists of lawyers and documents pertaining to planning lobbying actions and reports of lobbying efforts.

Subseries I.6: Subject Files, 1965-1994

These files consist of correspondence with a variety of figures and allied organizations, and topical files covering a broad range of subjects related to South Africa including sanctions, women, divestment, Rhodesia, the South African legal system, political parties, and violence.

Subseries I.7: South Africa Papers, 1980-1994

This series contains copies of material compiled into eight chronological volumes by the Southern Africa Project as the "South Africa Papers." The papers include copies of Southern Africa Project public statements, news articles, and other relevant documents.

Subseries I.8: Elections, 1968-1994

The elections subseries documents the 1994 South Africa election. The Southern Africa Project was involved in observing and monitoring the election and of note in this subseries are observer reports and handbooks. Collected here is also material related to other elections and election law in countries around the world, including Kenya and Nicaragua.

Subseries I.9: Biko, 1969-1988

Of interest in this subseries are transcripts from the inquest into the death of activist Steve Biko in 1977. A small grouping of writings by and about Biko and the South African Students Organization (SASO) are also available. Additionally there is a copy of the manuscript for the book, Steve Biko: Black consciousness in South Africa.

Subseries I.10: Testimonies and Papers, 1986-1994

Another grouping of materials compiled by the Southern Africa Project, this subseries contains copies of writings and testimony by Southern Africa Project staff in chronological order.

Series II: Independent Electoral Commission, 1993-1994

This series documents the work of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in overseeing the 1994 election in South Africa. The IEC was a statutory body consisting of 11 South Africans and 5 others. Gay McDougall served on the Commission as the only United States representative. Materials relating to the work of the communications, logistics, administration and monitoring units are included. The IEC met frequently, sometimes daily, and therefore the agendas, minutes, and accompanying documents from the meeting (for example, reports) provide a chronological look at the IEC’s day to day work leading up to the election. There are also sample ballots and posters.

Series III: Writings and Later Works,1981-2003

This series represents McDougall's work following her time with the Southern Africa Project and the Independent Electoral Commission. Included are topical files and published writings by McDougall.

Using the Collection

Access Restrictions

 This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Some folders containing personally identifiable information are restricted. See the box list for information on when the restrictions expire.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Gay McDougall Papers, 1932-2011; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Collection is processed to folder level. Finding aid available in repository and online.

Selected Related Material at Other Repositories

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers processed by Susan M. Kline in 2013-2014 with the assistance of Sidra Zaidi, Adriana Loson-Ceballos, and Seong-ah Cho. The processing of the Gay McDougall Papers was made possible through the generous support of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).

Finding aid written by Susan M. Kline in September 2014.

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion September 17, 2014

Finding aid written in English. Finding aid adheres to that prescribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard .

    2014-09-17 xml document instance created by Susan M. Kline.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Anti-apartheid movements.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Apartheid--South Africa.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Election monitoring.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Human rights advocacy.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Human rights workers.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Human rights.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Lawyers--Civil rights.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
McDougall, Gay J.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Non-governmental organizations.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Political prisoners.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
South Africa.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
South Africa. Independent Electoral Commission.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Southern Africa Project (Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note and History

Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1947, Gay J. McDougall is a lawyer and activist who worked to end apartheid in both South Africa and Namibia.

McDougall graduated from the Yale Law School and worked in private practice at a corporate law firm in New York City before becoming the director of the Southern Africa Project at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in 1980. At the Lawyers Committee, McDougall, working with lawyers and activists from around the world, oversaw a variety of campaigns to advance the cause of human rights.

Additionally, McDougall founded the Commission on Independence for Namibia in 1989; the group monitored the United Nations led elections in Namibia. Concerning itself with the fairness of the election, it successfully worked to change legislation related to election laws.

McDougall left the Lawyers Committee after she was appointed to serve as a member of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa, based in Johannesburg. She was the only American member of the IEC, which oversaw and administered the 1994 election in South Africa, which led to the election of Nelson Mandela.

Following the 1994 election, McDougall remained active in the human rights movement. She served as the Executive Director of the NGO, Global Rights until 2006. The United Nations Human Rights Council appointed her their first Independent Expert on Minority issues, a role she held from 2005 to 2011. She received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1999. She has also served as a board member for Africare, CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere), and the Global Fund for Women.

The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization was established in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to promote justice through the law in response to the civil rights movement in the United States. The Southern African Project emerged in 1967 and continued until 1994.