Title: Shooting at Sharpeville, the agony of South Africa
Photographer(s): Ian Berry
Writer(s): Ambrose Reeves, Chief Albert Luthuli
Publisher(s): Victor Gollancz Ltd, London, England
Size: 15 x 22 cm
Binding: Hardcover with just jacket
Print: The garden city press, Letchworth, Hertfordshire, England
Nation(s) and year(s) of Protest: South Africa, 1960
On March 21, 1960, at a police station in the South African township of Sharpeville in Transvaal (now part of Gauteng), following a day of demonstrations, police opened fire on a crowd of around 5,000 to 7,000 protestors. The crowds had gathered to protest pass laws, a form of internal passport system designed to segregate the population during apartheid. Although some reports described flare-ups and disturbances in the crowd, others state that the crowds were peaceful. Two years before he’d be invited to join Magnum, British photographer Ian Berry was present, and described the gathering as uneventful prior to the police opening fire.
Berry was working for South African magazine Drum when his editor called him on his day off to suggest he went to the black township of Sharpeville as there had been reports that somebody had been shot. He and a sub editor for the magazine, Humphrey, headed off to the area, where other members of the press were also arriving. At the gates, guards told them that without a pass they would have to vacate the area. But, knowing the area better than foreign visitors would, and having worked for a lot of African press, Ian Berry opted to stay there.