February 8, 1991

South African apartheid divestment activists return funds held in escrow to Swarthmore

In January of 1986, Swarthmore fined students who occupied the president’s office to demonstrate for divestment from apartheid South Africa. Members of the community helped to pay for the fines and secured a deal with the administration whereby that money would go to an independent account, to be returned to the College only if it fully divested.

Swarthmore agreed to fully divest in March, though it delayed starting the divestment process until 1989.

In February of 1991, Christine Scott ’88 and Anne M. Blackburn ’88, managers of the independent account, donated the funds to the endowment, having felt that Swarthmore had satisfied the terms of the agreement.

Unbeknownst to Scott and Blackburn, the Board of Managers would secretly adopt a policy banning any future divestment that same year (the exact date of the ban’s adoption is unknown). The Board instituted the ban in direct reaction to the South African apartheid divestment campaign.

Would Scott and Blackburn still have donated the money if they knew about the ban?