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Stephanie Urdang didn’t leave South Africa at the age of 23 because she was forced into exile. She left because she “hated Apartheid.” It was the late 1960s—mid-hiatus between the Rivonia Trial, the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and other anti-Apartheid leaders (in 1964), the burgeoning of Black Consciousness (from the late 1960s onwards), the resurgent trade union movement (1973), and the Soweto uprising (1976). Avenues for fighting Apartheid had narrowed; the comforts of whiteness expanded.

Urdang grew up in a staunch anti-Apartheid family (her father practiced law in Athlone, a coloured township on the Cape Flats), but very much a white South African, with all the trappings of privilege that her skin color guaranteed. Admittedly, it took her some time to “understand the gross inequality,” and it festered, eventually to the point that she “didn’t seem to have a place” in the South Africa of the time. She chose to move with her fiancé to start another life in the United States, where he would study physics. “I never talked to anyone, but underneath I had great ambivalence about the decision. I couldn’t even talk to myself about it. I…

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