Sir. — I have recently cancelled my South African tour, which was scheduled for September to November of this year, because I find it impossible to divorce moral values from the implications of my art and my artistic activities. The British Musicians' Union has placed a boycott on South Africa until the end of apartheid. While I understand and agree with the moral intention, I feel that this decision is too extreme. Realistically, the chances are 100 to one against the speedy termination of apartheid. Conceived as Africans living in separate sections from Europeans apartheid is not in itself the greatest evil. The maximum and unendurable evil is the day-to-day restrictions on human actions, movements, mind and spirit.
When I accepted the first invitation to play in South Africa two years ago I had decided that I would play to the Africans in addition to my professional engagements. I learned only after my arrival how it could be done. There is little or no value in giving concerts for the Africans or Coloured in the large cities or in the concert halls as most performers have done in the past. I found, for instance, when I played a professional engagement in Port Elizabeth, where the Africans and Coloureds are allowed to attend, that they had to leave at the interval because of the curfew. Besides, they must travel from their location into the city — this takes time and money. The only way to give music to the Africans and Coloureds is to go to them — to their locations and schools. With the help of a most sympathetic and helpful South African I arranged overnight to play at New Brighton, then the largest location in South Africa, with a population of 80,000.
When I came off the stage, at the interval of the Port Elizabeth concert, I was told that Reverend Mr. Molifi, a graduate of Columbia University, New York, was in the audience. He was head of the location at New Brighton and he had come with great delight to discuss arrangements for the recital; but, since the interval was unusually short and I wanted a few minutes to catch my breath, I asked if he would come and see me after the concert was over. The answer was: he must leave within a few minutes because of the curfew. This was my first personal encounter with this human indignity; of course I saw him. Although the concert was arranged at less than 24 hours notice, beginning at 10:30 the following morning, it was a memorable success and its organization was accomplished smoothly and with great care.
As an American and as a performer who has toured the United States for many years, I know well the situation in my own country, and no doubt there will be those who wonder that an American speaks publicly on this situation in another country. The great difference and hope in the United States lies in the fact that it is now the law that Coloured people be treated equally with whites. In South Africa discrimination is the law of the land. If and when the Government of South Africa will terminate the emergency regulations now in force, and allow reasonable opportunities for freer development of the Africans and Coloureds, I would gladly return to South Africa. Meanwhile, in lieu of my tour, I am offering a gift of my books and records to all African and Coloured schools and locations.
I well know that by cancelling my tour I have deprived some very worthy people of something they love and need; this has been one of the most painful problems in my decision. This fact is an eloquent testimony to the deprivation imposed on all groups because of legally enforced rule by one group. I fear that, until this is fully understood by those in power, more and more the artist and the informed liberal will find himself in the position of depriving those who believe in and work for humanitarian values in the very country in which this work is desperately needed. Those people are caught on all sides by laws which they are not powerful or numerous enough to alters Yet, to sanction oppressive practices of a nation by accepting concerts, money and general applause in that nation is personally unendurable and seems to me to weaken a link for those of us, throughout the world, who are striving for greater freedom and humanity.
Ultimately, we must recognize the fact that in the modern world art and moral values cannot go separate ways.
26, Yeoman's Row