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The trip became a triumphal procession,” said Nelson. Inside the courtroom, more supporters cheered and chanted, creating a mood of celebration, rather than punishment. 59 It took two days for prosecutors to read the charges against the 156 accused. All of them were charged with high treason and conspiracy to overthrow the government of South Africa. The accusations stemmed from their involvement with the Defiance Campaign, the Freedom Charter, the Congress of the People, and the Sophiatown protests.

On the second day of the Congress, though, the police attacked. They took the names of every person there. “The people responded magnificently by loudly singing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika,” said Nelson, who escaped unnoticed by authorities. It would be almost a year before the Congress of the People finally adopted the Freedom Charter. Of course, the white government disapproved of the revolutionary document. On December 5, 1956, it showed the degree of its displeasure. That day, police conducted a coordinated set of raids on the homes of ANC leaders.

We believe in the unity of all Africans from the Mediterranean Sea in the North to the Indian and Atlantic oceans in the South—and that Africans must speak with one voice. Around the same time, other non-white groups were also becoming more active in their opposition to white rule in South Africa. In 1946, the African Mine Worker’s Union staged a massive strike, demanding increased wages and better working conditions. About 60,000 people participated in the protest, which lasted four days. The government reacted to the workers’ job action by sending in police, who brutally attacked the protesters.

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