At the time, recently passed legislation -- including the Sabotage Act of 1962, the Unlawful Organizations Act of 1960 and the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950, severely limited people's rights to challenge or resist the apartheid regime.
"South Africa's draconian suppression of dissent had made peaceful dissent impossible," Broun points out.
Shortly after the trial ended, Great Britain Ambassador Hugh Stephenson wrote a confidential report about the Rivonia Trial to his own Foreign Office.
"By attributing all of their security troubles to the machinations of international Communism, they [apartheid leaders] are able to deny, with apparent conviction, that their own policies bear any responsibility" for social unrest in their country, Stephenson wrote.
By conceding the truth of many charges filed against them, Mandela and his Rivonia co-defendants ensured their own convictions.
As a white Afrikaner, Judge Quartas de Wet probably held prejudices against the defendants being tried in his courtroom.
"But by refusing to dodge the charges, Mandela and his codefendants were able to establish their primary purpose at the trial -- to show that the apartheid government had left them no choice," Broun writes.
"Their purpose was more to tell the world what was happening, but in doing so they also began the process of convincing the court that they were not the kind of people who should be hanged. Their candor surely played a role in de Wet's assessment of them."
For many years, almost every nation on earth condemned apartheid. The U.S. remained a major exception.
McGeorge Bundy, national security adviser under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson between 1961 and 1966, and Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor were among American political leaders who opposed alienating the apartheid government. Both also played major roles in backing the controversial Vietnam War.
At the close of the Rivonia Trial, Mandela said, "During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African People. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. ... It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and see realized. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
Bram Fischer, grandson of the prime minister of the Orange River Colony, was the top lawyer representing Mandela, Sisulu and other Rivonia defendants.
Fisher, the individual most responsible for saving the lives of Mandela and the other defendants, was sentenced on May 9, 1966, to spend the rest of his own life in prison. Diagnosed with cancer, Fisher spent the final months of his life confined to a home.
When he was released from prison in 1990, Mandela said, "In many ways, Bram Fisher ... made the greatest sacrifice of all. No matter what I suffered in pursuit of my freedom, I always took strength from the face that I was fighting with and for my own people.
"Bram was a free man who fought against his own people to ensure the freedom of others," Mandela said.
Mandela, his co-defendants and Fisher accomplished their goals during the Rivonia Trial.
"The failure of the trial to generate support abroad for the South African government removed an incentive for similar trials in the future," Broun writes. "Rivonia had fully exposed apartheid for the evil that it was."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.