26 June 2010

55 years since Kliptown: the history of the Freedom Charter

Freedom Charter Poster issued by the Projects Committee, AL2446_0958

For the first time in South African history, all people residing in South Africa can access basic human rights, regardless of their background, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, level of disability and citizenship. These rights are enshrined in the Bill of Rights. This dates back to the creation of the Freedom Charter in 1955.

On 26 June, 1955, the Freedom Charter was signed in Kliptown, calling for freedom, equality and dignity for all people. People united despite oppression to decide on their own idea of a just society, and this has left a powerful mark on South African society.

This important and historic document represents the struggles endured by millions of South Africans to secure access to their fundamental human rights. The story of the Freedom Charter is bound up in the actions of the Congress of the People, a radical group of mid-twentieth century political activists who united to fight for freedom and equality in a new South Africa.

Members of this radical group made history when they initiated a comprehensive list of basic rights to be included in their own vision of an alternative society. They did this at great personal risk; their actions aroused the suspicion of security police, and many were arrested and imprisoned.

The Freedom Charter emphasised the need for equality before the law, personal rights, political franchise, equal education, amongst thousands of other freedoms, providing agency to millions of South Africans robbed of their rights by Apartheid.

'There shall be houses and security for all', SAHA Poster Collection, AL2446_0980

SAHA and the Freedom Charter

The Freedom Charter was an influential manifesto for the anti-apartheid movement. This is reflected in the vast number of references made in various SAHA collections.

AL2431 :: The United Democratic Front (UDF) Collection

AL2457 :: The Original SAHA Collection

AL2460 :: The Julie Frederikse Collection

AL2540 :: The SAHA Ephemera Collection

AL2563 :: The Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) Collection

AL2564 :: The Five Freedoms Forum (FFF) Collection

AL2956 :: The Emilia Potenza Collection

AL3109 :: The UDF Working Group on International Relations Collection


Bill of Rights Exhibition Kit

In 2010, an exhibition kit on the Bill of Rights was developed in order to enable community-based and educational organisations the ability to learn more about the history of human rights in South Africa: the Freedom Charter features as a precursor to the Bill of Rights.

SAHA is in the process of developing several thematic exhibition kits for loan, and is interested in working with organisations to develop exhibition kits relating to the history of a particular area or issues pertinent to a specific community.

Please visit our website to learn more about exhibition kits.

For more information about these exhibition kits, please contact archives@saha.org.za