What happened at Sharpeville on 21 March 1960? Massacre or self defence?

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What happened at Sharpeville on 21 March 1960?

Massacre or self defence?

1. (a)

Both Sources A and B agree that there were Saracen armoured cars around on the morning of the events. They also agree that there were large amounts of police. Source A says; “There were plenty of police”, Source B mentions “police reinforcements”. Another thing on which both sources agree is the large numbers of people protesting in the crowd. The sources mention; “There were crowds on the streets” (Source A) and that there were “thousands of Africans shouting” (Source B). Both sources agree that the Africans were approaching the police station. Also both sources mention the crowds chanting and using slogans. Source A says people were shouting ‘Izwe Lethu (Our Land)’. This chant could have created an intimidating atmosphere for the white policeman and they could have become angered, scared and worried for their own and their colleagues safety. This also shows that the Africans were extremely patriotic. The other source shows this aswell but is it not the same slogan that is mentioned; ‘Africa, Africa' they are said to be saying. Both sources agree that the crowds were very lively.

1. (b)

Sources A and B disagree on the atmosphere that was created at the time. Source A seems to create a happy, joyful atmosphere. It says; ‘It was like a Sunday outing’. However Source B creates an atmosphere of a nervous, angry and even violent crowd. It says ‘the police station was violently besieged’ and ‘[the car] emerged [from the crowd] as a wreck and the people inside were injured’. Source A says that ‘the Africans didn’t seem to be alarmed by the police cars’ whereas source B mentions them using violence against the cars; ‘A motor car... Emerged as a wreck and the people inside were injured. The sources do not agree on how the crowds approached the station. Source A says simply ‘we approached the police station’ whereas the other source says the police station was besieged, creating an altogether different picture and atmosphere of the events on the Morning. Source A mentions ‘kids waving to the policemen’ and the policemen waving back. This atmosphere is nothing like the atmosphere described in Source B which states that the atmosphere is hostile and violent. Source A says that there were three Saracen armoured cars but Source B disagrees with this and says that there were ‘a dozen Saracens on call’.


Sources C and D are both photographs and they only provide a snapshot of the view of what was going on at the time. The pictures could have been taken as propaganda and they may only show what the photographers wanted them to show. Source A mentions a mainly calm and relaxed atmosphere which is, on the face of it, what the pictures could be interpreted as being. However, as the photos are only a split second in time they cannot possibly prove that the atmosphere and the situation is the same as that described in Source A. The people with their thumbs up at the van could be interpreted as a welcoming sign to whoever was in the van, but as it says underneath, the thumbs up gesture is supposedly a sign of protest. In the background of Source D you can see that there are a lot of people as described in Source A. There does not seem to be a police presence, but the car could be a police car, or more Saracen vehicles could be just out of the picture. Source C does not seem to show many people and there does not seem to be any conflict between the Africans and the police. Also, the people shown look to be interested as is said in Source A but it cannot be proven with only two limited photos In black and white. The photos obviously do not have any sound so it cannot be said if the crowds were chanting at all or if there was gunfire. I do not agree with the statement as C and D are very limited in what they can show and therefore they cannot prove what is said in Source A.

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Source F says that there were no more than 4000 people in the crowds and this cannot be backed up or proved wrong by other sources which just mention many people being there - that could mean 4000 or 10000 people. Source F also says that the crowd did not have any weapons at all ‘not even sticks’ it says. Source E says that the police claimed that they were ‘in danger because the crowd was stoning them’ but Tyler also says that he saw no weapons. This suggests that the source could be reliable. Source F ...

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