Great Debates in History: Jackson and Falwell Clash Over Apartheid, September 1985

On September 4, 1985, Ted Koppel presided over a televised debate on ABC's Nightline between Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Jerry Falwell, during which the two men discussed the issue of South African apartheid. Neither Jackson nor Falwell was an expert on the topic, as Koppel noted, remarking that ''if I was picking a panel of the people who know most about the issue, even if it was 50 people on each side, I'm not sure I'd pick either man.'' But the opponents had exchanged heated words on the subject two weeks earlier on Good Morning America to much media attention, and the network was confident that a more formal rematch would draw enthusiastic viewers.  Click to view televised debate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLBG8TVPhb8

While both Jackson and Falwell condemned the apartheid regime, the two men strongly disagreed about what actions the U.S. should take in response to the South African crisis. Jackson, a civil rights activist and former Democratic presidential candidate, was vocal in his condemnation of apartheid, stating that "a system built on race is ungodly and unmoral and it is immoral and cannot stand." He believed that economic sanctions would pressure the South African government into dismantling its system of institutionalized racial segregation.