In This Review

Sharpeville: A Massacre and Its Consequences
Sharpeville: A Massacre and Its Consequences
By Tom Lodge
Oxford University Press, USA, 2011, 256 pp

On March 21, 1960, police in Sharpeville, South Africa, shot hundreds of people protesting laws that restricted the movement of blacks. Sixty-nine protesters died, and the massacre became an iconic moment in the struggle against apartheid. Relying on fascinating archival testimonies of demonstrators -- but little from the police -- Lodge explains that the protests had been organized by the Pan-Africanist Congress, which was then at the peak of its influence in the anti-apartheid movement. The PAC was slowly displaced by its rival, the better-organized African National Congress, led by Nelson Mandela. Lodge argues convincingly that the major effect of the Sharpeville massacre was international. It galvanized an international civil-society coalition against the white minority government in South Africa, leading directly to the regime’s first major diplomatic defeat: its exclusion from the British Commonwealth in 1961. Yet Lodge also observes that in the short term, the massacre consolidated minority rule. The South African government used the threat of black violence to bolster its legitimacy with whites and justify its repressive practices.