Anti-Apartheid activist and educator Caroline Hunter was born on September 5, 1946 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She attended Xavier University Preparatory School and graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana with her B.S. degree in chemistry in 1968.
After graduation, Hunter was hired as a research bench chemist for Polaroid Corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1970, upon the discovery of her employer’s involvement in the South African apartheid system as the producer of the passbook photos, she and her future husband, co-worker Ken Williams, formed the Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement (PRWM). Hunter and Williams became the first American activists to challenge their employers’ South African investments. They led a seven-year boycott against Polaroid that included testifying before the United Nations and Congress about American corporations profiting from assisting the South African government. In 1971, Polaroid fired both Hunter and Williams, but the PRWM prevailed and by 1977 Polaroid completely pulled out of South Africa.
After her involvement in the PRWM, Hunter went on to work as an educator. She was a secondary science and math teacher, and volunteered on a number of school-community projects for at-risk youth, advocacy and support for diverse parents, and elimination of the achievement gap. She also taught math and science to Boston, Massachusetts’s public high school students in summers and Saturday workshops. In 1999, Hunter earned her M.Ed. degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and became the assistant principal of the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.
Hunter was invited to give the keynote at the Dr. Effie Jones Memorial Luncheon at the AASA National Conference on Education, at the Music City Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and received the Dr. Effie Jones Humanitarian Award from the AASA – The School Superintendents Association on February 14, 2014. Hunter received the 2012 Rosa Parks Memorial Award by the National Education Association for leading the effort that led to sanctions against apartheid in South Africa. The South African Partners presented the Amandla Award to Hunter in 2012, and the Massachusetts Teachers Association presented her with the Louise Gaskins Lifetime Civil Rights Award in 2011. In 1998, after her husband, Ken Williams, passed away, she and her daughter, Lisette, founded the Ken Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund (KWMS), of which Hunter served as secretary and the annual golf tournament coordinator. The KWMS Fund has awarded more than $30,000 in college scholarships to needy high school students from Cambridge and Martha’s Vineyard for outstanding social justice work and art.
Caroline Hunter was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 9, 2014.