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Nearly 2 dozen U.S. lawmakers were scheduled to be at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, many of them members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The caucus’ link to the South African leader and his people’s struggle is longstanding.    Former Ohio congressman Louis Stokes described the history on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin.

“The Congressional Black Caucus had long been involved as the major force in Congress fighting for [economic] sanctions on South Africa,” Stokes explained, “and in that role, we have also been in in protest there in Washington, D.C.  Delegate Walter Fauntroy had been organizing protests.”

After refusing police requests to leave, said Stokes, “We were arrested, taken to jail, refused bond, we spent the night in jail in order to symbolize our alignment with cause of Nelson Mandela.”

Stokes also mentioned the leadership of  former California congressman Ron Dellums (who introduced an anti-apartheid bill in 1972), Rep. Maxine Waters (who still serves California), and the late Parren Mitchell of Maryland, in the fight against apartheid.

It would not be until 1986 that The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act finally passed. The economic sanctions that resulted helped put pressure on the white-controlled South African government to start dismantling the country’s brutal system of racial segregation and oppression.

Listen below as Stokes describes the struggle, as well as the joy of attending the inauguration of Mandela as South Africa’s first black president.

Be sure to tune in to NewsOne Now with Roland Martin, weekdays at 7 a.m. EST.