Abstract

The World Is Watching: Polaroid and South Africa

This article examines the Polaroid Corporation's "experiment" in South Africa during the 1970s, which began after African American workers pressured the company to pull its operations out of South Africa in protest of the white minority government's apartheid policies. It argues that Polaroid's initiatives, little studied until now, led other American companies to question their presence in South Africa and inspired both student divestment movements at Harvard and other colleges and universities and the efforts of Leon Sullivan, whose 1977 "Sullivan Principles" urged American companies to treat their workers in South Africa as they would treat their counterparts in the United States in an effort to battle racism and apartheid. Despite Polaroid's efforts, engagement with South Africa and apartheid proved futile, which initiated a larger movement to completely disengage from South Africa.