Freedom Charter timeline 1948-1961

1948
26 May, DF Malan's National Party government follows up its election victory with the introduction of new apartheid laws as well as the stricter application of existing discriminatory legislation such as the Pass laws
3 October, 12 African leaders issue A Call for African Unity
1949
December, New leadership elected to African National Congress (ANC) Youth League including Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo. Dr. James Moroka elected as President of ANC with the backing of youth leaguers
17 December, ANC adopts Programme of Action which abandons traditional moderate approach of petitions and deputations in favour of mass action using the tactics of boycotts, strikes and civil disobedience.
1950
The Group Areas Act, the Population Registration Act, the Immorality Act and the Suppression of Communism Act is passed
26 March, In response to the introduction of the Suppression of Communism Act, a Defend Free Speech Convention held in Johannesburg where Dr James Moroka delivers his first public address as President of the ANC
1 May, A May Day stay at home is successful in Johannesburg despite being opposed by the nationalist-minded Mandela and Tambo who object to the communist influence. More than half the African workforce in Johannesburg stays at home. The day ends tragically however, when police intervention in clashes between returning workers and boycotting workers results in 19 dead and 30 injured in Benoni, Orlando, Alexandra and Sophiatown
14 May, Conference of representatives of executives of the African National Congress, South African Indian Congress, African People's Organisation, ANC Youth League, Communist Party and Transvaal Council on Non-European Trade Unions
21 May, ANC national executive committee decides to call a national one-day stay at home protest on 26 June
20 June, Communist Party of South Africa is disbanded ahead of the enactment of the Suppression of Communism Act. More than a thousand communists join the ANC
26 June, The ANC call for a National Day of Protest and Mourning is heeded. Since then (until the 1994 elections) 26 June was observed annually as Freedom Day in South Africa by the congress movement
12 November, JB Marks, a member of the communist party, is elected president of the Transvaal branch of the ANC
1951
The Bantu Authorities Act is passed
June, Pixley Seme, a founder member of the SANNC (later renamed ANC) in 1912, dies
June, The Separate Representation of Voters Bill to remove Coloureds from the common roll is enacted
17 June, First meeting of the Joint Planning Council (made up of representatives from all the main anti-apartheid groups) is chaired by Moroka on the day that Seme is buried
August, The Joint Planning Council submits its report which calls on the apartheid government to scrap the unjust laws by February 1952. Failure to do so would result in a Defiance Campaign which would begin on 6 April – the date set aside for the countrywide celebration to mark the tercentenary of Jan van Riebeeck's arrival at the Cape in 1652
1952
21 January, The ultimatum signed by Moroka and Sisulu is received by Prime Minister DF Malan
29 January, Malan replies to the ANC letter with a warning
6 April, ANC calls on black people to observe the day as National Day of Pledge and Prayer. Mass rallies are held in all national centres. Dr Moroka addresses 50 000 people in Freedom Square Fordsburg
26 June, Defiance Campaign launched. Groups of protesters in all major centres deliberately break unjust laws
September, United Nations recognition that South African issue is an international issue
October, Nearly 6 000 people arrested countrywide for participation in Defiance Campaign. First violent incidents and deaths during the campaign occur in Port Elizabeth
November, Twenty Congress leaders, including Dr. Moroka, are arrested and put on trial under the Suppression of Communism Act
10 November, Armed police disrupt a prayer meeting organised by the ANC in East London. A number of people are killed in the nearby African township thereafter
1953
The National Party consolidates power in the general elections and pass the Criminal Laws Amendment Act and the Public Safety Act which makes protests illegal and gives authorities power to declare a state of emergency
The Bantu Education Act is passed
August, Cape ANC leader Prof. ZK Matthews proposes the drawing up of the Freedom Charter whose main objective would be to instil political consciousness in the people and encourage their political activity. This proposal is endorsed by the ANC annual conference in September
18-20 December, ANC conferences elects Chief Albert Luthuli to succeed James Moroka as President of the ANC
1954
Dr Verwoerd's (Min of Native Affairs) speech to Senate: My department's policy is that education should stand with both feet in the Reserves and have its roots in the spirit and being of Bantu society”¦. There is no place for him (the Bantu) in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour.
23 March, The executives of the ANC, SAIC, SACTU, CPC and CoD meet in Tongaat. A National Action Council (which later became known as the Congress Alliance) is given the go-ahead to plan a Congress of the People
In August 1954 the Congress Alliance asked the FSAW to assist in organising the Congress of the People and the women agreed with enthusiasm. They were to help organise local bodies and recruit new grassroots support for the Alliance by holding house meetings and local conferences. This they did with great success in the opening months of 1955. In addition they took on the huge task of arranging accommodation for the more than 2 000 expected delegates. Their input gave the women an opportunity to lobby for the incorporation of some of their demands into the Freedom Charter adopted at the mass meeting.
1955
25-26 June, 2884 delegates attend the Congress of the People in Kliptown where the Freedom Charter is adopted
Septembe,. Police raid the homes of 500 activists, seizing documents relating to the Freedom Charter. Bannings and restrictions of leading activists follow
1956
9 August, 20 000 women, representing millions of oppressed women from all parts of South Africa march on Pretoria's Union Buildings to protest against the imposition of passes on African women
5 December, 156 leading activists are arrested heralding the start of the Treason Trial
9 December, The Treason Trial begins at the Drill Hall in Johannesburg
1961
March, The remaining 30 accused in the Treason Trial are acquitted of charges of treason

Last updated : 28-Jan-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 20-Mar-2011