1st Edition

Voices of Sharpeville The Long History of Racial Injustice

By Nancy L. Clark, William H. Worger Copyright 2024
    312 Pages 53 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    312 Pages 53 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This is the first in-depth study of Sharpeville, the South African township that was the site of the infamous police massacre of March 21, 1960, the event that prompted the United Nations to declare apartheid a "crime against humanity."

    Voices of Sharpeville brings to life the destruction of Sharpeville’s predecessor, Top Location, and the careful planning of its isolated and carceral design by apartheid architects. A unique set of eyewitness testimonies from Sharpeville’s inhabitants reveals how they coped with apartheid and why they rose up to protest this system, narrating this massacre for the first time in the words of the participants themselves. Previously understood only through the iconic photos of fleeing protestors and dead bodies, the timeline is reconstructed using an extensive archive of new documentary and oral sources including unused police records, personal interviews with survivors and their families, and maps and family photos. By identifying nearly all the victims, many omitted from earlier accounts, the authors upend the official narrative of the massacre.

    Amid worldwide struggles against racial discrimination and efforts to give voices to protestors and victims of state violence, this book provides a deeper understanding of this pivotal event for a newly engaged international audience.

    1. Contested Land: The Importance of Place

    2. A Company Town

    3. From Location to Township: Building Sharpeville

    4. Life in Sharpeville

    5. 21 March 1960

    6. The Massacre

    7. A Family Tragedy

    8. Sharpeville and the World

    9. Coda: The Role of Memory



    Nancy L. Clark is the Dean of the Honors College and Professor of History Emeritus at Louisiana State University. She is a Research Fellow at the University of the Free State.

    William H. Worger is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California Los Angeles. He is a Research Fellow of the University of the Free State.

    "Based on thorough and discerning scholarship, the book provides new evidence on the ‘neglected’ and ‘hidden’ history of Sharpeville. The authors are commended for this insightful narrative to dispel the one-sided and widely disseminated account of the Sharpeville Massacre by those who supported apartheid."

    Chitja TwalaUniversity of Limpopo, South Africa

    "This compelling and thought-provoking book promotes the idea that the ‘truth’ in History as a discipline is itself based on shifting sand. Nancy Clark and William Worger prove that, if proof is needed, the production of history is a process of constant negotiation between evidence and interpretation where many questions are capable of a wide variety of answers."

    Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu, The University of South Africa

    "Sixty-three years after the apartheid killings at Sharpeville, the voices of the victims are heard, thanks to imaginative and dogged research by Nancy Clark and William Worger. And, startlingly, they report that the police count of 69 dead and 186 wounded – which has been accepted and endlessly repeated over the years – has always been a lie. This is a revelatory book."

    Benjamin Pogrund, former deputy-editor of The Rand Daily Mail, South Africa

    "Working intensively with Sharpeville’s community, Clark and Worger aim here to right the wrongs of a past that has left many of the dead unrecognised and the injured disregarded. They reconstruct a history of Sharpeville as a place, as a community, and as a memory and an icon. After more than fifty years, Sharpeville remains the place where the anti-apartheid struggle went global: and with this lucid and compelling book, we at last know why."

    David M Anderson, University of Warwick, UK