The Sharpeville Massacre

For many who have not seen it, Sharpeville is a date, not a place.
—Prakash Diar

March 21, 1960: A large crowd of Black South Africans assembled in front of the Sharpeville police station to protest the pass laws imposed by apartheid. The pass laws were statutes requiring all black men and women of South Africa to carry a reference book with them when they travelled outside of their homes.

The Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), led by Robert Sobukwe, together with Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC), organized the protest for the nation's blacks to join together to demonstrate peacefully against apartheid.

Rarely in South Africa before 1960 had so many black people demonstrated their defiance of the laws in any way. The police were highly apprehensive, not knowing what to expect. Suddenly, tensions were released: the crowd pelted the policemen with stones, and the edgy policemen retaliated with gunfire.

In the end, sixty-nine protesters were killed and one hundred and eighty were wounded (some shot while trying to flee) in what came to be known as The Sharpeville Massacre.
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In the Shadow of Sharpeville: Apartheid and Criminal Justice, Peter Parker and Joyce Mokhesi-Parker. New York University Press, 1998.
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Sharpeville Commemoration. Magnolia Press, 1994.

Search for 'Sharpeville' on or
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