Sharpeville

photo of scared people running away

Crowds fleeing as police open fire on peaceful protestors, killing at least 69 and injuring 180 people. 1960. © Ian Berry/Magnum Photos

The African National Congress (ANC), formed in 1912, was one of many opposition groups, including the South African Coloured People's Organisation (SACPO), the Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement (INCLM) and the United Democratic Front (UDF). After becoming impatient with peaceful protests against the apartheid regime, several ANC members broke away to form the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in 1959.

On 21 March 1960 the PAC organized a protest in Sharpeville, a town south of Johannesburg. The aim was to highlight the injustices of the Pass Laws, which required Black Africans to carry a pass book at all times that contained personal and employment information. The pass book was seen as a symbol of apartheid. Despite the non-violent nature of the protest it was brutally suppressed by armed police. Eyewitness accounts tell of the inhumane way the crowd was sprayed with gunfire without warning. At least 69 people were killed and over 180 were injured.

Sharpeville was just one of many human rights abuses in apartheid South Africa. It happened to be recorded by Ian Berry, the only photojournalist present on the day. His photographs, some of which were shown in the exhibition, were later used in the trial proving the victims' innocence.