Segments in this Video

South African Pass Laws & "Influx Control" (01:53)


Under apartheid, every black South African was required by the government to carry a Reference Book, or passport. Influx control regulations restricted black mobility, opportunity, and liberty.

Husbands & Wives Separated by Pass Laws (01:46)

Husbands worked far away from home for years at a time. Women stayed in black parts of town to raise children, where they became destitute. Women visiting their husbands in cities got arrested for not having permits.

History of Female Oppression & Resistance to Early Pass Laws (01:02)

Each time passes were issued to women, beginning in 1913, they were withdrawn. Black women suffered a double oppression on account of their race and sex. They comprised an invisible labor force and were denied passes to live in white cities with their husbands.

Female Anti-Pass Campaign: Grassroots Organizing (02:01)

When the Nationalist Government came to power in 1948 and planned to issue passes to women, women had already begun to organize on the grassroots level to discuss bread-and-butter issues, though they worried jail time would severely impact their families.

Federation of South African Women: Movement & Leadership (01:35)

In 1950, women met to protest female pass laws. Dora Tamana became the first National Secretary of the Federation of South African Women but was shorty replaced by Helen Joseph in 1955, who famously worked with President Lilian Ngoyi.

Lilian "Ma" Ngoyi (00:42)

Lilian Ngoyi (1913-1980) was a garment worker who endured poverty and solely supported her children and mother. Her campaign against apartheid began with small acts of resistance and made her a dynamic, powerful leader.

Defiance Campaign (01:04)

In 1952, the Defiance Campaign was the first large-scale anti-apartheid resistance movement. Non-white women crossed into white-only areas and offered themselves up for arrest, with the intention of focusing the eyes of the world on South African women.

Anti-Pass Appeal to Prime Minister (00:59)

In 1955, the Federation of South African Women organized at the Union Building, a seat of government in Pretoria. 2,000 women gathered to protest pass laws for women, but the Prime Minister issued permits, which were only passes by a different name.

Massive Resistance Despite Government Antagonism (03:45)

In 1956, FSAW organized an even bigger protest and devised creative solutions to combat the obstacles government placed in their way. Women presented the Prime Minister with petitions with over 100,000 signatures and sang songs in solidarity while awaiting his response.

Government Backlash & Treason Trials (00:59)

The government struck back, charging the FSAW leaders with treason and asking for the death penalty. After a four-year trial, they were acquitted, but the government placed bans on Lilian Ngoyi and Helen Joseph.

Government Attempts to Issue Passes to Women (02:35)

The government pass-issuing unit met with opposition in rural areas. Even nurses left their hard-won jobs rather than accept passes. Domestic servants momentarily relented because of pressure from their bosses, but protesters fervently responded.

Mass Punishment for Female Protesters (02:08)

Women were arrested, jailed, and tried in massive groups, refusing bail. When the first group was released, crowds assembled and police charged. One woman recalls her experience in solitary confinement.

Anti-Pass Movement's Resilience & Expansion (02:33)

FSAW declared 1959 to be the greatest anti-pass year, despite increased police strength and brutality. Women widened their campaign to include all their grievances, including a protest against beer halls.

Male Involvement & Police Massacre of Peaceful Protesters (01:51)

In 1959, men of the African National Congress resolved to join the anti-pass campaign. In 1960, the Pan Africanist Congress organized a mass surrender to arrest. Police shot protesters, killing 69 and wounding hundreds more. The government then outlawed the Liberation Movement.

Dismantling of FSAW Leadership & Enactment of Pass Laws (01:22)

When Lilian Ngoyi died in 1980, she was still under banning order. Other leaders of FSAW were detained or confined to house arrest for years. The government made it so that every act of normal life was dependent upon the pass before finally making it mandatory in 1963.

Female Anti-Pass Movement: Legacy & Continuation (01:02)

Women working in the anti-apartheid movement never gave up their fight. A poem from Lilian Ngoyi's funeral promises to never forget and calls forth a new order of women fighting for change.

Credits: You Have Struck A Rock! (00:32)

Credits: You Have Struck A Rock!

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You Have Struck A Rock!

3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



A South African proverb says that “When you have touched a woman, you have struck a rock.” This program documents the special contribution of South African women to the ending of apartheid with their massive, nonviolent civil disobedience movement. Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Dora Tamana, and other leaders recall their involvement, which included imprisonment and banning before victory was finally won. (28 minutes)

Length: 28 minutes

Item#: BVL49766

Copyright date: ©1981

Closed Captioned

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