Why do we commemorate Human Rights Day on 21 March?
The Sharpeville Massacre was an important turning point for the South African Struggle Movement. It took place in Sharpeville, situated nearby Vereeniging in Gauteng (then-Transvaal). Organised by the Pan African Congress, with Robert Sobukwe at the helm, a crowd of thousands gathered at the Sharpeville Police Station on 21 March 1960 to protest the enforcement of Apartheid legislation restricting freedom of movement of black men and requiring them to carry pass books in so-called ‘white areas’ in South Africa.
Sharpeville Day became an important symbol for the struggle, and was commemorated by the banned political parties in exile as well as by the United Democratic Front, comprising a mass movement of groups seeking to end the Apartheid regime.
Staffer Judy Favish travelled to Eastern Europe to trace her father’s ancestry after he was rescued from anti-Semitic pogroms and sent to South Africa as an orphan in 1920. The story has been captured in a groundbreaking documentary film. Some archival sources for the film came from the Oranjia Cape Jewish Orphanage records held at Special Collections.
Special Collections has recently completed the arrangement and description of a large archival collection of papers donated by a former head of UCT’s Social Anthropology Department and Life Fellow of UCT, Pamela Reynolds.