21
Mar
09

On This Day, March 21: Sharpeville

March 21, 1960

Massacre in Sharpeville

In the black township of Sharpeville, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Afrikaner police open fire on a group of unarmed black South African demonstrators, killing 69 people and wounding 180 in a hail of submachine-gun fire. The demonstrators were protesting against the South African government’s restriction of nonwhite travel. In the aftermath of the Sharpeville massacre, protests broke out in Cape Town, and more than 10,000 people were arrested before government troops restored order.

The incident convinced anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela to abandon his nonviolent stance and organize paramilitary groups to fight South Africa’s system of institutionalized racial discrimination. In 1964, after some minor military action, Mandela was convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison. He was released after 27 years and in 1994 was elected the first black president of South Africa.

“Massacre in Sharpeville.” 2009. The History Channel website. 21 Mar 2009, 04:18 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=4853.

 

On This Day

1349 – 3,000 Jews were killed in Black Death riots in Efurt Germany.

1556 – Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was burned at the stake at Oxford after retracting the last of seven recantations that same day.

1804 – The French civil code, the Code Napoleon, was adopted.

1851 – Emperor Tu Duc ordered that Christian priests be put to death.

1871 – Journalist Henry M Stanley began his famous expedition to Africa.

1905 – Sterilization legislation was passed in the State of Pennsylvania. The governor vetoed the measure.

1918 – During World War I, the Germans launched the Somme Offensive.

1945 – During World War II, Allied bombers began four days of raids over Germany.

1963 – Alcatraz Island, the federal penitentiary in San Francisco Bay, CA, closed.

1965 – More than 3,000 civil rights demonstrators led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. began a march from Selma to Montgomery, AL.

1972 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not require one year of residency for voting eligibility.

1984 – A Soviet submarine crashed into the USS Kitty Hawk off the coast of Japan.

1985 – In Langa, South Africa, at least 21 demonstrators were killed at a march to mark the 25th anniversary of the Sharpeville shootings.

1990 – Namibia became independent of South Africa.

 

March 21, 1980

Carter tells U.S. athletes of Olympic boycott

President Jimmy Carter informs a group of U.S. athletes that, in response to the December 1979 Soviet incursion into Afghanistan, the United States will boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. It marked the first and only time that the United States has boycotted the Olympics.

After the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan in December 1979 to prop up an unstable pro-Soviet government, the United States reacted quickly and sharply. It suspended arms negotiations with the Soviets, condemned the Russian action in the United Nations, and threatened to boycott the Olympics to be held in Moscow in 1980. When the Soviets refused to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, President Carter finalized his decision to boycott the games. On March 21, 1980, he met with approximately 150 U.S. athletes and coaches to explain his decision. He told the crowd, “I understand how you feel,” and recognized their intense disappointment. However, Carter defended his action, stating, “What we are doing is preserving the principles and the quality of the Olympics, not destroying it.” Many of the athletes were devastated by the news. As one stated, “As citizens, it is an easy decision to make-support the president. As athletes, it is a difficult decision.” Others declared that the president was politicizing the Olympics. Most of the athletes only reluctantly supported Carter’s decision.

The U.S. decision to boycott the 1980 Olympic games had no impact on Soviet policy in Afghanistan (Russian troops did not withdraw until nearly a decade later), but it did tarnish the prestige of the games in Moscow. It was not the first time that Cold War diplomacy insinuated itself into international sports. The Soviet Union had refused to play Chile in World Cup soccer in 1973 because of the overthrow and death of Chile’s leftist president earlier that year. Even the playing field was not immune from Cold War tensions

“Carter tells U.S. athletes of Olympic boycott.” 2009. The History Channel website. 21 Mar 2009, 04:26 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2613.

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