In February 2009, the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University, presented an exhibit titled Freedom: The UAW and the Release of Nelson Mandela. The exhibit documented the UAW's longtime financial and moral support for global movements against racial apartheid in South Africa. The union's efforts culminated in a flurry of activity that included leadership of the Shell Oil boycott, under its president, Owen Bieber, in the 1980s. In June 1990, Mandela recognized the work of the UAW by visiting Detroit during his U.S. Freedom Tour. The Reuther exhibit has opened an important and underappreciated perspective on the UAW's long history of international activism.

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