Walter Fauntroy represents the District of Columbia in the U.S. House of Representatives and is pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He has long been a leading figure in the black freedom movement. Fauntroy was a close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference founded by King.
Since entering Congress, Fauntroy has also continued his involvement in non-electoral activities. In 1981 he was arrested with a group seeking to block the opening of a toxic waste dump in a poor and primarily black county in South Carolina. In 1983 he was the primary organizer of the 20th Anniversary March on Washington for Jobs, Peace, and Freedom.
On November 21, 1984, Fauntroy, Randall Robinson, director of TransAfrica, and U.S. Civil Rights Commission member Mary Frances Berry were arrested in a sit-in at the South African embassy in Washington. That action sparked what has now become a nationwide campaign of nonviolent direct action against apartheid and U.S. policy in South Africa. On December 13, Sojourners visited Fauntroy at his congressional office to discuss the development of the Free South Africa Movement and his involvement in it.
Sojourners: The news of your arrest as part of a sit-in at the South African embassy came as a very pleasant Thanksgiving Day surprise to many of us. Could you tell us about the sequence of events that led to that action and the subsequent Free South Africa campaign?