Human Rights Day 2018: 5 books to commemorate Sharpeville

Human Rights Day 2018: 5 books to commemorate Sharpeville

Human Rights Day 2018 comes at a time when apathy threatens to destroy and divide us. Here are 5 books that will help us understand what the day really means.

Human Rights Day: Remembering the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960

As I’m writing this, I can hear singing in the streets. It’s a happy thought, knowing how far we’ve come since the Sharpeville Massacre on 21 March 1960, when 3000 people gathered at the Sharpeville police station to protest against the use of passbooks. Sixty-nine people died that day, and today we remember and thank them for their sacrifice in making South Africa a better place.

Watch a video on the Sharpeville Massacre:


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Reading about the past

Despite these people’s sacrifices, life in South Africa is arguably not better for everyone. Sure, people don’t have to carry passbooks around anymore, but South Africa’s black majority are still victims of institutional racism and discrimination. We’re a long way from where we should be, and we’re dangerously close from forgetting our past.

Too often, I’ve sat around dinner tables where people fling casual racism around like confetti at a fancy wedding. Our lack of understanding of our history and how we as white people are culpable and privileged, yes, even if we weren’t there, is staggering.

I believe in trying to understand one another, and the best way to do that is through books. Here are:

5 books you must read to understand Human Rights Day 2018:


In South Africa today, March 21 is a public holiday, Human Rights Day, and for many people, it remains a day of mourning and memorial. This book illuminates this pivotal event in South African history.


On 21 March 1960, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, leader of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), led a mass defiance of South Africa’s pass laws. He urged blacks to go the nearest police station and demand arrest. When police opened fire on a peaceful crowd in the township of Sharpeville, 68 people were killed.


The re-emergence of debates on the decolonisation of knowledge has revived interest in the National Question, which began over a century ago and remains unresolved. Tensions that were suppressed and hidden in the past are now being openly debated. Despite this, the goal of one united nation living prosperously under a constitutional democracy remains elusive.

Human Rights Day Books 2018

This timeous publication asks some difficult questions and hopefully provides some answers too. As Prof N Barney Pityana says in the foreword, “We make the Constitution by living and experiencing it. The courts have said ad nauseam that the Constitution is a living document. We, the people, must own it and shape it. The stories in this book are sufficient evidence that the Constitution and its values are being shaped by the hammer and the anvil. A book like this achieves that critical task of restoring confidence in the people. It should help citizens claim back their power. That is what the French Revolution did.”

Human Rights Day 2018 Books

    5. Kwela Pocket Revolutionaries series by various authors

The voices of legendary liberation struggle leaders and thinkers – from Nelson Mandela and Anton Lembede to Che Guevara and Thomas Sankara – come alive with Kwela Books’ Pocket Revolutionary Series. Containing speeches, essays, interviews and rare writings, the series provides fascinating insights into the thoughts of iconic South African, African and other political leaders who helped shaped our world.

Watch the series trailer:


Contact Anna Stroud for freelance writing and editing services. For more examples of her work, visit her freelance writing portfolio.

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