|69 massacred in Sharpeville, South Africa|
On March 21 1960, police opened fired on 20,000 unarmed Africans demonstrating peacefully against the segregated police state, turning the South African township of Sharpeville into a symbol of apartheid's brutality. The fusillade, which killed 69 and wounded another 178, focused international attention on South Africa and prompted the antiapartheid movement to end its reliance on non-violent protest. Demonstrators were outraged that the white police continued to train their automatic weapons on the crowd even when they were fleeing from the scene.
The demonstrators had been protesting the Pass Laws enacted by the National Party government three years ago. Under these laws, any black male observed in a "white area" was required to show a pass which entitled him to be there. Each week thousands of blacks were stopped by police and arrested if they were found not to have their passes with them.
The massacre sparked off demonstrations across townships in South Africa, leading Premier Hendrik Verwoerd's National Party government to impose martial law and outlaw the African National Congress (ANC) as well as the Pan-African Congress. By May, 20,000 blacks had been jailed and the antiapartheid groups had gone underground.
ANC president Albert Luthuli received the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize but his deputies were considering more aggressive paths. Nelson Mandela, 33, asked: "Is it politically correct to continue preaching peace and non-violence when dealing with a government whose barbaric practices have brought so much suffering and misery to Africans?" A cycle of terrorism and heightening repression soon began.
Increasingly ostracised abroad, South Africa quit the British Commonwealth in 1961. Verwoerd's war against black activists peaked in 1963 when police raided the headquarters of an ANC splinter group. Among the leaders captured and sentenced to lie imprisonment was Mandela. Three years later, Verwoerd was stabbed to death on the floor of Parliament by a deranged white, but his party and his policies still reigned.