December 6, 2013

Mandela’s fight influenced Maine leaders

The UMaine system was among the first universities in the U.S. to take action to divest its investments in South Africa.

By Noel K. Gallagher
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Longtime Maine civil rights activist Gerald Talbot talks about Nelson Mandela and his chance to meet the liberator in South Africa years ago.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Although the trustees voted to recommend that the University of Maine Foundation also divest, it was a staggered victory. The university system divested its own portfolio immediately, but the foundation, which operates independently, refused to divest its roughly $1.2 million investment in South African firms. That made it a target of anti-apartheid protests on campus, Allen said.

After years of protests, the foundation eventually divested, he said.

The emotional high point for Allen during the fight, he said, was meeting Mandela in New York City.

Allen was among about 100 anti-apartheid activists who gathered in a church to meet Mandela before an appearance at Yankee Stadium.

“I still remember his words,” Allen said. “He said, ‘Tonight I’ll be at Yankee Stadium, and it will be a big celebration ... but I know who my true friends were, who was standing with me all those years.’ You can imagine how moving it was. Everyone was in tears.”

Adams said many people in Maine worked on the anti-apartheid movement.

“It was the accumulation of small places like the actions of the state of Maine and North Dakota that were part of a powerful worldwide effort,” Adams said.

“Small places took a principled stand, and together we made a huge difference in the struggle against the apartheid system.”

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or


This story was corrected at 3:34 p.m. on Dec. 6 to reflect that a divestiture bill by Rep. Harlan Baker, D-Portland, initially failed, then was passed the following year, in 1987.

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