Despite not achieving the end of Apartheid in the 1950's and early 1960's, was this a significant period of the struggle against Apartheid?
I certainly think that a good case can be made that the 1950s and 1960s were important to the Anti- Apartheid cause because they started the process of resistance that would inevitably bring down the Apartheid government and way of life. The emergence of the African National Congress developing resistance to apartheid is part of this process. In addition to this, other resistance groups began to emerge in this time period as a direct result of the need to challenge the racist system in South Africa. White intellectuals who directly participated in sabotage were seen in the African Resistance Movement, an organization that emerges in the 1960s. The Pan- Africanist Congress emerges also in this time period to suggest the need for a Blacks- only political approach. Mandela's imprisonment, along with other ANC, leaders happens in the 1960s. This helps to highlight the draconian approach of the South African government in its attempts to justify apartheid. This is significant because of the worldwide attention the issue began to receive, helping to bring about public condemnation and moving the world pendulum close the side of dissolving an apartheid government. All of these do not end apartheid, but they play a distinctive role out of the 1950s and 1960s. They help to disrupt the government practice of apartheid to a point that sees it dissolve later on in the dialectic.
The belief that the struggle put up in the late 40’s and 50’s would end apartheid kept the morale of the resistance up and kept up the struggle against the oppressive government, but the passive resistance didn’t last very long due to the lack of government action.
In May 1950 the ANC as well as other oppressed parties met in the Transvaal and organised a May Day strike, this protest was met with violence in Johannesburg and 18 protesters were killed. After this clash the ANC called for a national day of protest and mourning again defying government rule.
the defiance campaign, implemented after a meeting in Bloemfontein 1952, was released in a public statement saying “All people, irrespective of the national group they belong to and irrespective of the colour of their skin, who have made South Africa their home, are entitled to live a full and free life”
There were up to 10,000 people protesting against the apartheid laws. Around 8500 people were arrested including Nelson Mandela, although there was a mass arrest, the morale was not lowered ANC support went from 7,000 to 100,000 over the course of the campaign.
The government reaction to the defiance campaign was the arrest of major ANC Leaders as well as declares a state of emergency the head of the ANC was stripped of his chieftainship and placed under house arrest
Although this arresting succeeded in stopping the sudden campaign it didn’t make a huge difference, in 1955 the SACTU was formed completely resisting the government policies. This was followed by the formation of the black sash, founded by white women and fought to defend human rights; they staged public protests wearing black sashes as a symbol of mourning for the constitution.
At the same time was the women’s anti pass march, they held a series of peaceful protests and marches against the new law that forced them to carry passes like the men did, there most important protest was in 1956 where 20,000 women marched to the union buildings in Pretoria In protest.
The government reaction to this major series of defiance or resistance were the Treason trials, which involved the silencing of the liberation movement, 156 people were arrested and charged with treason the freedom charter was deemed a communist document and their crimes were punishable by death, although the trial dragged on, all of the accused were found not guilty
The Defiance campaign may not have gotten rid of the apartheid government but it certainly toppled it immensely, the events that took place over the decade had a huge effect on not only the government but the international world leading the way to the end of apartheid.