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Sharpeville Massacre Sources Question

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Sharpeville Massacre Sources Question 1) Source A is useful in that it provides detailed statistics about the massacre at Sharpeville, such as the date, number of protestors and the movement of the crowd towards the police station. It does not however provide any information about the shooting, such as who fired first or whether the protesters were armed. Source A appears to be a reliable source in that it is not biased in favour of either the blacks or the whites, simply providing the cold, hard truth. Using the information it Source A, I have written a short description of the events leading up to the police opening fire. At around 8am, a group of passbook protestors began to form into a group near the school in Seeiso Street. This group eventually merged with another group of protestors gathered near the police station, who were waiting for an announcement concerning passbooks. At any time the crowd probably contained around 5000 people. This number was greatly inflated at the following inquest into the events, possibly to make the protestors sound more dangerous. Whether this description is completely accurate cannot be determined. It is simply a description based on what is said in Source A. I am inclined to believe Source A, because the writer does not seem to have any opinion as to who was in the right at Sharpeville. 2a) Sources A and B differ in their description of the events at Sharpeville. The biggest difference is in the number of people in the crowd. Source A states that there were 5,000 people and that this number was greatly inflated by many others. ...read more.


Large crowds can be misjudged in terms of size, making five thousand people be mistaken for twenty thousand relatively easy. It is not, however, easy to mistake a crowd of 'several hundred' for twenty thousand. Again, this suggests that either the journalist was not an eyewitness or was not very observant. On the subject of observance, one fact that the author seems to be very sure about is the weapons used in the shooting - sten guns. "Quite suddenly there were bursts of firing, chiefly from sten guns" This person was not even accurate about the size of the crowd, why would he notice the type of guns used during in the shooting, unless he was positioned behind the police line. If he was, then it is very likely that this source is written with a very definite bias against the protestors. Source C also claims that the Africans were stoning the police. Again, both sources D and E disagree with this. Source E shows no fallen stones around the dead bodies and, as mentioned above, the writer of source D did not see any weapons at all, despite looking carefully. "I saw no weapons, though I looked carefully, and afterwards studied photographs of the death scenes" All of these factors contribute to this source being unreliable. Unfortunately, Source E cannot be used considered 'reliable' either. Any pictorial evidence presented to a historian must be able to stand up on it's own without requiring a title. If you take the title away from Source E, you are left with a photograph of some people lying on the ground. ...read more.


The experiences of Stephen Biko starkly show what Tutu was referring to. The formation of the South Africa Student Organisation (SASO) gave an outlet for ideas about Black Consciousness. "...Black people must build themselves into a position of non-dependence upon whites. They must work towards a self-sufficient political, social and economic unit. In this manner they will help themselves towards a deeper realisation of their potential and worth as self-respecting people. The confidence thus generated will give them a sense of pride and awareness." -Barney Pityana, 1967 Black Consciousness was also an important element of the civil rights movement the USA. With all the leaders imprisoned, the ANC formed an underground militant wing, called Umkhonto we Sizwe which planned and carried out a series of military attacks on power stations, railway lines, police stations and arranged for their members to be trained in neighbouring 'friendly countries'. (See apendix for their manifesto). In Britain and other commonwealth countries people were called upon to boycott South Africa by refusing to buy South African goods as well as cutting off academic, sporting and cultural links. The knowledge that international support existed gave the resistance movements the confidence to continue their struggle even in the face of appalling acts of government aggression such as the killing of school children protesting about being taught in Afrikaans which they saw to be the language of oppression. It took many more years of sustained political struggle before the transition to majority rule and democracy began in 1990 under the leadership of President de Klerk. Thus it can be seen that the continued use of the passbook after Sharpeville was only one manifestation of a repressive regime and the lifting of the pass laws alone would not have prevented the violence of the next three decades. ...read more.

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