This account of the decade that preceded the Soweto uprising of June 1976 not only transforms our understanding of this crucial flashpoint of South Africa’s history, but also creates a longer, more evolutionary, historical narrative for the overthrow of apartheid.
It argues that the suppression of opposition movements after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 did not lead to a period of ‘quiescence’, as many writers maintain, in which activists retreated into private acts of dissent and the opposition went underground, followed, a decade later, by a sudden eruption of the townships, first in Soweto, and then across the country. Rather, these years were marked by experiments in resistance and attempts to develop new forms of politics which prepared the ground for the uprising in Soweto, introducing new modes of organisation, new models of protest, and new ideas of resistance, identity, and political ideology to a generation of activists.
This book begins by showing how students at South Africa’s segregated white and black universities began to re-organise themselves as a political force; how new ideas about race reinvigorated political thought; and how debates around confrontation shaped the development of new forms of protest. The author then builds upon this narrative to show how protest began to move off university campuses and onto the streets: through the independent actions of workers in Durban, and then through attempts by students to link their struggles with a more public political agenda.
These actions made protest public once again, and helped establish the patterns of popular action and state response that would come to shape the events in Soweto on 16 June 1976.
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