The 1976 Soweto Uprising in Photos

The South African student protest was met with police violence

Hector Pieterson grave
The memorial and grave of protestor Hector Pieterson who died in the 1976 Soweto Uprising. Roger de la Harpe / Getty Images

When high-school students in Soweto started protesting for better education on June 16, 1976, police responded with teargas and live bullets. It is commemorated today by a South African national holiday, Youth Day. This gallery of photographs shows both the Soweto Uprising and the resultant aftermath when rioting spread to other South African cities.

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Aerial View of Soweto Uprising (June 1976)

Aerial view of Soweto Uprising

Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Over 100 people were killed and many more injured on June 16, 1976, in Soweto, South Africa, following anti-apartheid protests. Students set fire to symbols of apartheid, such as government buildings, schools, municipal beerhalls, and liquor stores.

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Army and Police at Roadblock During Soweto Uprising (June 1976)

Army and Police at Roadblock during Soweto Uprising

Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images 

Police were sent in to form a line in front of the marchers -- they ordered the crowd to disperse. When they refused, police dogs were released, then tear gas was fired. Students responded by throwing stones and bottles at the police. Anti-riot vehicles and members of the Anti-Urban Terrorism Unit arrived, and Army helicopters dropped teargas on gatherings of students.

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Demonstrators in the Streets During the Soweto Uprising (June 1976)

Soweto Uprising
Keystone / Getty Images

By the end of the third day of rioting, the Minister of Bantu Education closed all schools in Soweto.

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Soweto Uprising Roadblock (June 1976)

South African rioters in Soweto use cars as roadblocks during unrest

Keystone / Getty Images

Rioters in Soweto use cars as roadblocks during the unrest.

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Soweto Uprising Casualties (June 1976)

Soweto Uprising Casualties

Keystone / Getty Images 

Injured people wait for treatment after the riots in Soweto, South Africa. The rioting started after police opened fire on a march by Black students, protesting against the use of Afrikaans in lessons. The official death toll was 23; others put it as high as 200. Many hundreds of people were injured.

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Soldier at Riot Near Cape Town (Sept 1976)

Soldier At Riot
Keystone / Getty Images

A South African soldier holding a tear gas grenade launcher during rioting near Cape Town, South Africa, September 1976. The riot follows on from the earlier disturbances in Soweto on June 16th that year. The rioting soon spread from Soweto to other towns on the Witwatersrand, Pretoria, to Durban and Cape Town, and developed into the largest outbreak of violence South Africa had experienced.

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Armed Police at Riot Near Cape Town (Sept 1976)

Armed Police
Keystone / Getty Images

An armed police officer trains his rifle on demonstrators during unrest near Cape Town, South Africa, in September 1976.

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Boddy-Evans, Alistair. "The 1976 Soweto Uprising in Photos." ThoughtCo, Feb. 7, 2021, Boddy-Evans, Alistair. (2021, February 7). The 1976 Soweto Uprising in Photos. Retrieved from Boddy-Evans, Alistair. "The 1976 Soweto Uprising in Photos." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 7, 2021).