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Title: Opening Men's Eyes
Author: Michael Cardo
Publisher: Jonathan Ball Publishers
Johannesburg, South Africa 2010
ISBN 9781868423927 / ISBN 978-1-86842-392-7
Softcover, 16x23 cm, 368 pages, b/w photos
This book tells the story of how Peter Brown, a privileged youngster growing up in the all-white world of conservative Natal settler society, had the scales of racial prejudice removed from his eyes, and how he set about opening the eyes of his compatriots. ‘We have to open men’s eyes, not tear them out’, said nineteenth century Russian liberal thinker Aleksandr Herzen. It was a belief that Peter Brown, a white South African liberal living in an illiberal country, took to heart, as he made his contribution to the struggle against apartheid. He paid a price. Imprisoned by the government during the 1960 State of Emergency, Brown nevertheless lived to see the vindication of his life’s work.
Michael Cardo brings to life Brown’s friendships across the colour bar with the likes of United Democratic Front founder, Archie Gumede, which he cultivated in Edendale, and his close relationship with Alan Paton, the celebrated author of Cry, the Beloved Country, who viewed Brown as his closest friend and political ally. With Opening Men's Eyes, Cardo provides an important documentary history of the Liberal Party and shows how it was radicalised under Brown’s leadership. He also pays careful attention to Brown’s concern with land and community. This was the golden thread that connected Brown’s liberal activism in the 1950s and 60s.