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Sharpeville Massacre
Photo: AFP

South Africa, 21 March 1960

On 21 March 1960, the Pan Africanist Congress organised a peaceful march in Sharpeville, Soweto.  During the protest, black South Africans burnt their pass books which restricted their movement to other areas in terms of the Pass Laws Act of 1952 which stipulated where, when, and for how long a person could remain.

The police opened fire on the peaceful march and killed 69 human beings and injured 178 others.

Sharpeville Day has since been commemorated each year in South Africa on 21 March and in 1994, the day was made into a national public holiday called Human Rights Day.  The idea is for South Africans to remember the great human rights sacrifices and transgressions that occurred against the black people of South Africa in the road to freedom.

The photo above showed people lying wounded in the streets of Sharpeville.  Today, Sharpeville remains an impoverished area where many people are living in shacks without running water or indoor sanitation.

In 1966 the United Nations proclaimed the 21 March the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  Rmembering the event of 21 March 1960, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

What have you done to eliminate racism today?

About Mandy Southgate

Mandy Southgate is an accountant living and working in London. She is passionate about world events such as genocide and apartheid and has a desire to understand how these events continue to occur in the modern world. With a focus on the 20th and 21st centuries, A Passion to Understand reflects her continuing research and reading on these topics.
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