In the early 1900’s, the booming mining industry and forced resettlement of blacks by the South African government gave rise to Kliptown, the first of Soweto’s suburbs. Since then, the township has continued to grow. Home to Nelson Mandela, the Freedom Charter, the South African Students Organisation, the Soweto Civic Association and the Soweto Youth Congress among others, Soweto established a rich history as a source of anti-apartheid activity.
On June 16, 1976, Soweto burst onto the world scene when thousands of Sowetan students staged a demonstration in reaction to a decree by the then-apartheid government instructing all schools to teach in Afrikaans as well as English. At the time, Afrikaans was widely felt among black South Africans to be the ‘language of the oppressor’. Police, who had set-up barricades along the demonstration route, fired the first shot, turning what began as a peaceful protest into violent riots where hundreds were killed and countless injured.
Today, the township of Soweto represents South Africa’s largest urban population. With estimates ranging from one to four million, it is projected that upwards of 65 percent of Johannesburg’s total population resides in the twenty-nine suburbs and sixty-eight square kilometers that make up Soweto.