Former congressman who helped with Mandela's presidency visits E - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

Former congressman who helped with Mandela's presidency visits East Texas

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HAWKINS, TX (KLTV) -

The son of an East Texas man, who spent nearly three decades in congress, came back today to talk to students about his role in fighting apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s.

Ronald Dellums was the first African-American congressman in northern California. He spoke today at Jarvis Christian College as part of their Black History Month program. He explained to KLTV how he was able to help change the lives of many, including the late Nelson Mandela.

In 1971, Dellums helped organize the congressional black caucus. Today, he explained to students how that group turned a petition into a bill that passed the house and became a U.S. national policy.

"They asked me to introduce a piece of legislation calling for disinvestment. Many people don't know that the passbooks that blacks were required to show upon demand in South Africa had photographs that were taken by Polaroid cameras," Dellums said. "So, the workers were uncomfortable working for a corporation that they saw as complicit in the apartheid system in South Africa."

The former congressman said little did he know, the agreement he made would turn into an 18-year battle leading to a victory.

"In 1986 congress passed the disinvestment bill that overrode President Reagan's veto, and you know it moved on as a great moment in American history," Dellums said.

A couple years later, he continued to be a part of history.

"I was honored to be there the day that Nelson Mandela was sworn in as president of South Africa," Dellums said. "I was very honored to have played a tiny role in that."

Dellums said years after making history, the greatest gift he can share is to communicate with younger generations about living out their dreams, just as he has.

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