Sharpeville Massacre 21 March 1960

On the 21st March 1960 a large group of black South African protestors marched on the Sharpeville police station. They were protesting the Apartheid government’s pass laws which required every black person over the age of 16 to carry a pass, to be presented to the police on demand.

Tension at the protest escalated as protestors began to throw stones at the police. In a panic, the police responded by shooting into the gathered crowd.

The official figure is that 69 people were killed, including 8 women and 10 children, and 180 injured, including 31 women and 19 children. Many were shot in the back as they turned to flee.


Today, we celebrate Human Rights’ Day in their memory.

My mother’s family had only been reclassified from ‘coloured’ (mixed race) to ‘white’ 10 years prior to the massacre. My grandfather traded his black grief for white guilt. Yoh!… Apartheid’s scars run deep.

4 thoughts on “Sharpeville Massacre 21 March 1960

  1. the coffins look so small, and there are so many it looks like a railway track. Thanks for sharing. If you are interested in it,
    I can thoroughly recommend ‘A Stronger Kinship’ a wonderful book on some freed slaves who moved to town in Michigan mid 19th century. the bought the land the school was built on so their kids were allowed to attend. the cover pic of black & white kids with arms intertwined is gorgeous. at the end I thought, this is incredible. but the real response should be, this should have been the norm. Thanks for sharing. cheers

    • I’d love to read it.

      These days, I tend to think it’s the small prejudices that are more damaging than the outright racism of then. Nowadays, when somebody at a dinner party starts talking about “them” as being less than “us”, you can just write them off as being bigots and fools.

      It is the little prejudices that are far more insidious. I have had to confront many of my own prejudices (most I never knew existed) since discovering in my early 30s, that I am actually mixed-race.


  2. Pingback: ¿Cómo era Sudáfrica antes de Mandela? (II) | Qué Aprendemos Hoy

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