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Black township revolts (South Africa)

Subject History

Place Southern Africa » South Africa

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


African students were greatly infuenced by the black consciousness movement and by the freedom movements in Mozambique and Angola (see portugal's colonial wars ). When the South African government declared in 1976 that half the curriculum in black schools should be taught in Afrikaans there was a protest in Soweto (South-west Township), near Johannesburg. As 15,000 students marched through Soweto, the police fired, killing several students. Africans responded by attacking the police and destroying schools, administrative buildings and beer halls. The conflict soon spread to other townships on the Rand and in the following weeks to Cape Town and the eastern Cape. Police encouraged migrant hostel workers to attack students, who wanted to close their government-owned beer halls. By the end of the year 575 people had been killed, 2,389 wounded (these government figures are probably an underestimate). The riots were not a serious threat to the government, as the students lacked organization and leadership and did not make any formal contact with workers. The police coped without the help of the army and no State of Emergency was declared. Yet, like sharpeville , Soweto became known throughout the world as a symbol of black resistance to white oppression. Instruction in Afrikaans in black schools was dropped. More serious township revolts took place from 1984–6. There was a major ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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