A Picture Worth a Thousand Reactions

In 1953 the Bantu Education Act was established. This act enforced a new education system for blacks under the apartheid system. Their education was training them as workers, laborers, and servants (those occupations common for blacks in apartheid).

“(Bantu Education) is inferior to that one of white people”


Iconic photo of Hector Pietersen

Many of the black South Africans were displeased with this education system. On June 16th, 1976 students in a town outside of Johannesburg, called Soweto, put together a protest demonstration. While the students were marching the police attempted to stop them with tear gas, which proved unsuccessful. They then opened fire on the group of unarmed students killing and wounding many students. This riot is now known as the Soweto Uprising.

One of the students shot and killed in the uprising by the police was named Hector Pietersen. Hector was only 12 years old when he died. An image of his lifeless body being carried by one of his fellow students became an iconic image representing the terrors of the riot and the apartheid system. This image was published spreading worldwide outrage.

sandy hook victims

Victims of the Sandy Hook shooting

Viewing the image myself, I feel that sense of outrage and anger. It seems so inhumane for someone to carelessly take the life of anyone let alone a young person. The recency of events here in Connecticut of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has definitely intensified my feelings towards this image. The images of the children’s lifeless bodies were not shown, however the news of such an event caused so much outrage and pain as did the events of the Soweto Uprising. Images of the faces of the lives lost could have such an upsetting reaction. The photo of Hector was more graphic and really set off a whirlwind of emotions and reactions worldwide. The reactions people have to such events become motivators for change. With Hector’s body lifelessly being held, many foreigners became emotionally involved in the situations going on with South Africa which eventually has lead them to action to help end apartheid.


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