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Today marks Youth Day across South Africa, which is meant to observe the start of the Soweto Uprising. Hector Pieterson, a youth shot and killed during the protests in 1976, was the centerpiece of one of the uprising’s most iconic images and helped to rally the world against the country’s racist Apartheid rule.

The uprising was organized to protest the forced introduction of the Afrikaans language in South African schools. Students and youth leaders pushed back against the new regulations, staging a massive walk out. Around 20,000 students gathered in Orlando Stadium in the face of heavy police presence.

Pieterson, a 13-year-old student, was shot at one of the area high schools. Photographer Sam Nzmia captured the photograph of a slain Pieterson being carried by a fellow student with the boy’s distraught sister running alongside them. For years, Nzima was unable to obtain rights to the photograph, despite its popularity and historical importance.

The photo also helped advance Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress’ efforts to end apartheid, the official program of discrimination in South Africa. In all, an undetermined number into the hundreds were counted among the slain though the government only acknowledged the death of 23 students. Over 1,000 others were injured.

(Photo: Fair use)

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Little Known Black History Fact: Hector Pieterson  was originally published on