Resistance against apartheid

The ANC, protests and massacres

The African National Congress was formed in 1912 - years before apartheid - as an organisation advocating equal voting rights for black people and people of mixed ethnicity in South Africa. After apartheid was implemented from around 1950, the ANC’s primary goal became the abolition of apartheid.

At first, the ANC mainly resisted apartheid through peaceful methods such as protests, boycotts and civil disobedience towards apartheid laws. For example, the ANC staged mass burnings of passbooks as a response to the discriminatory Pass Laws Act of 1952. This was part of the so-called Defiance Campaign, which featured many other acts of civil disobedience across the country.

Increasingly these acts of peaceful protests were met with violence from the government. A particularly grim example of this was the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, in which 69 protesters were killed by the police.

After the Sharpeville massacre, the ANC decided that purely peaceful methods would not be sufficient to defeat the apartheid government. In 1961, the group formed a militant wing called Umkhonto we Sizwe (“The Spear of the Nation”), which later engaged in bombings and sabotage missions against various targets, sometimes with civilian casualties. Umkhonto we Sizwe was quickly banned by the government - and was also put on the US watch list for terr...

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