Across much of the world during the mid-1980s, students on university campuses led boycott, divestment, and other solidarity campaigns targeting the apartheid government of South Africa. This solidarity movement played a fundamental role in the ultimate dismantling of the apartheid state, spawning institutional and governmental pressure beyond just educational institutions. This student-catalyzed movement emerged around 1985, and by 1990, with the release of Nelson Mandela, most of the groups' campaigns were successful.
Beginning in 1983, students and student allies at the University of Toronto began creating the organizational structures needed to pressure the University to divest from South Africa. Students created an Anti-Apartheid Network, or AAN, drawing membership from the Student Christian Movement, the Communist Club, the African and Caribbean Students’ Association, and the New Democratic Party Club. The group had large support among the student body from very early on, but gained no traction with the University administration.