Protest

South Africans STOP POLICE TERROR banner listening to speaker during second Communist meeting.

Bourke-White’s contact with Communist party activists like Yusuf Dadoo led her to a protest against pass laws, held in an African township on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Here she photographed both the crowd and individual speakers, including the man in the below photograph, identified by her only as “Native carpenter, Phillip Mbehle.” Her captions indicate that this was a “second Communist meeting”; a previous meeting she had attended had been halted by the police.

 Native carpenter Phillip Mbhele wearing WE DON'T WANT PASSES tag, angrily speaking against the white Afrikaner's pass system

Native carpenter Phillip Mbhele wearing WE DON’T WANT PASSES tag, angrily speaking against the white Afrikaner’s pass system

Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries

Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries

Bourke-White’s contact sheets, one of which appears below, indicate that many African women attended this protest meeting; pass laws were not applied to women until 1952. Other signs read “Away with Passes.” As Bourke-White pointed out, “It must have taken courage to either speak or listen, as meetings are apt to be broken up with violence.”

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