The Freedom Charter is adopted in Kliptown

Sunday, 26 June 1955

Executives of the African National Congress (ANC), South African Indian Congress (SAIC), South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), Coloured People's Congress (CPC) and the Congress of the Democrats (COD) met in Tongaat on 23 June 1955. The National Action Council (which later became known as the Congress Alliance) was given the go-ahead to plan a Congress of the People. On 26 June 1955 the Freedom Charter was adopted in Kliptown, bringing the ANC together with Indian, Coloured and White organisations. The Congress of the People was a dramatic affair held over two days in an open space at Kliptown, a Coloured township near Johannesburg. It was attended by 3 000 delegates from all over the country, including 320 Indians, 230 Coloureds and 112 Whites. The various clauses of the Charter were introduced, there was an opportunity for impromptu speeches from delegates present, and the clauses were then read out and acclaimed by a show of hands. The three thousand delegates who gathered at Kliptown on 25 and 26 June 1955 were workers, peasants, intellectuals, women, youth and students of all races and colours.

The Congress of the People constituted the most representative gathering in the history of South Africa. The vision of freedom was for a united, non-racial and democratic South Africa. Subsequently all the members of the Congress Alliance adopted the Freedom Charter in their national Conferences as their official programme. Thus the Freedom Charter became the common programme enshrining the hopes and aspirations of all progressive people of South Africa.

Picture: Father Huddleston - The Congress of the People meet at the Kliptown football ground with 3,000 delegates. The congress of the People were made up out of four member-bodies, the A.N.C., the Indian Congress, the Coloured Peoples Organisation and the Congress of Democrats. The Freedom Charter, which the Congress of the People adopted on June 26, were read and signed by delegates

During the Congress the Isitwalandwe/Seaparankoe, the highest honour awarded by the ANC, was awarded to Chief Albert Luthuli, Dr Yusuf Dadoo and Father Trevor Huddleston. Only Father Huddleston was able to accept his award at the Congress, as Luthuli and Dadoo were unable to attend because of banning orders placed on them. The proceedings were brought to an exciting close by the arrival of a large detachment of police bearing Sten guns on the afternoon of the second day.


  1. Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau.
  2. Highlights in history on this date, Wednsday, June 25; website:
  3. South Africa's Radical Tradition: A documentary history, Volume two 1943 - 1964. website:

Last updated : 22-Jun-2018

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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