|Soweto: A History by Philip Bonner and Lauren Segal|
"My father chose house number 435 because the houses had no tap inside and the tap for the whole street was in front of house 435."
The history of Soweto, its development, and the trials and tribulations of its people are a microcosm of the history of South Africa. This book is the first to comprehensively document the township and to voice the experiences of its often silenced black population.
Researchers spent many hours finding people who could tell the story of Soweto from its beginning, and listened to the tales of both young and old. The authors used these, written records, pictures, and photographs to weave together the history of this vibrant township. The result is a highly readable narrative that intersperses personal testimony with historical fact, photos of human drama with political cartoons, newspaper articles with government documents.
"Women were not allowed to become heads of families. If your husband died, you'd have to get your son to be head of the family and, if he was too young, you had to get a close male relative to occupy the house. If a woman failed to get a man to take up tenancy, the house would be declared vacant and the woman had to go back to her place of origin or live as a lodger in other people's homes."
The chapters deal with the origins and building of Soweto (Building Matchbox City), the apartheid government's attempts to asset its control (Divide and Rule), the period of black political dormancy following the crushing of resistance in the early 1960s (The Loaded Pause), the 1976 student uprising (This is Our Day), the years following the uprising (At War), and the unravelling of the apartheid system (New Beginnings).
The authors and picture researchers are to be complemented on the quantity and variety of the illustrations, from scenes of everyday life such as the queues at the pass office to notorious photos such as the aftermath of the Sharpeville shooting.
"They would put you in this very nasty interrogation room with lots of blood stains on the walls which scared you to death. I was standing in a cell like this wearing only my nightie."
The people of Soweto refused to let their spirit be crushed, and it is this spirit which is captured in this book, not simply the history of their struggle against apartheid.
Soweto: A History by Philip Bonner and Lauren Segal, is published by Maskew Miller Longman, 1998, ISBN 0-636-03033-4, 164 pages. It was originally created to complement a six-part documentary series produced by The Free Film Makers and the History Workshop in association with Britain's Channel Four.