41 years ago today, a student-led uprising that began in Soweto but quickly spread throughout the country would forever change South Africa. On June 16, 1976, high-school students responding to Apartheid education policies, and particularly the political aftermath of the Bantu Education Act in 1953, began a protest. According South African History Online, the Bantu Educational system “was designed to ‘train and fit’ Africans for their role in the newly (1948) evolving apartheid society.” Organized by the South African Students Movement’s Action Committee, between 3–10,000 students peacefully demonstrated against the government’s directive, but were met with teargas and bullets.
Many of the students were killed, resulting in a widespread uprising against the government that lasted through the following year, and which would go on to irreversibly bolster the resistance against Apartheid. In the aftermath of the massacre, the South African government was condemned internationally, and the uprising prompted many new recruits to join the weakened and exiled liberation movements fighting against Apartheid.
Today, these events are commemorated by Youth Day, a South African national holiday honoring all the young people who lost their lives.
Read more about the Soweto uprising here.
Banner photo: image of Hector Pieterson, the first person to be killed by police. Photograph: Sam Nzima/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images