History March 21, 2019 at 08:00 am

[Today in History] 69 Black South Africans were killed during the infamous 1960 Sharpeville Massacre

Francis Akhalbey | Content Manager

Francis Akhalbey March 21, 2019 at 08:00 am

March 21, 2019 at 08:00 am | History

Photo Credit: Ian Berry/ Camera Press

On this day in 1960, one of the most heinous displays of violence against demonstrators was committed by the South African police during the apartheid era. The unfortunate incident, which occurred at a police station in the black township of Sharpeville left 69 people dead and hundreds injured.

In protest of the Pass Laws, a passport system enacted under Apartheid to further segregate the population, thousands of Black protesters took to the streets to combat the racist law. Initially, the Pass Laws were put into effect in the 1920s and only targeted Black South African men, but eventually, they were extended by the Apartheid-supporting National Party leader Dr Hendrik Verwoerd to also target and harass women.

Although the demonstration was mostly peaceful, the mood darkened once police called in armed reinforcements. According to varying accounts, the crowd, which reportedly grew to about 19,000 was largely peaceful while other accounts claim they were violent and threw stones at the police.

In the aftermath of the incident, the police claimed that young, inexperienced officers were the catalyst for the tragic event, but an investigation in 1998 yielded possibilities that the police firing their weapons was ordered by superiors.

The row of graves of the 69 people killed by police at the Sharpeville Police Station on 21 March 1960

News of the massacre travelled around the country, and across the globe.

To mark the event, March 21 is a public holiday as well as Human Rights Day in South Africa.

Below are some pictures of what happened on that fateful day.


Photo Credit: Ian Berry/ Camera Press


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