The Black Sash

The Black Sash is a non-violent white women's resistance organisation founded in South Africa in 1955 . The Black Sash initially campaigned against the removal of Coloured or mixed race voters from the voters' roll in the Cape Province by the National Party government. As the apartheid system began to reach into every aspect of South African life, Black Sash members demonstrated against the Pass Laws and the introduction of other apartheid legislation.

Women of the Black Sash march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to deliver petitions signed by over 100 000 women for the repeal of the Senate Bill to the Prime Minister's deputy, Mr Ben Schoeman, Minister of Transport. 1955.

"[Members of the Black Sash] used the relative safety of their privileged racial classification to speak out against the erosion of human rights in the country. Their striking black sashes were worn as a mark of mourning and to protest against the succession of unjust laws. But they were not only on the streets. Volunteers spent many hours in the national network of advice offices and in the monitoring of courts and pass offices." - (Speech by Marcella Naidoo, National Director of the Black Sash, June 2005)

Black Sash. In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 29, 2015, from

Members of Black Sash protest at the side of the road.

UCT Libraries Special Collections is home to a wide variety of collections that document the work of the Black Sash.

Amongst these are the: 

  • Black Sash (Cape Western Region) Archive (BC668)
    Materials pertaining to national conferences, areas of involvement and special projects, photographs and newspaper clippings.·      
  • Black Sash Advice Office Archive (BC1020)
    Documenting the vital work done by the advice office, inter alia issues pertaining to domestic workers, contract workers, applicants for residential rights, and squatters regarding pass laws and other influx control measures under apartheid.
  • Black Sash Trust Archive (BC1268)
    This collection consists of records of the Black Sash Trust, which was formed when the Black Sash evolved from a membership organisation to a non-governmental organisation.


A portion of the Black Sash collections is available on this site, while you can also explore the Black Sash Archival Collections in South Africa Database.

Apart from these administrative archives, several prominent Black Sash members have deposited their personal papers at UCT Libraries Special Collections, including::

  • Mary Burton (BC1065)
  • Noël Robb (BC1092)
  • Sue Philcox (BC1106)
  • Jo MacRobert (BC1165)
  • Betty Davenport (BC1289)
  • Margaret Nash and Betty Davenport (BC1330)
  • Beva Runciman (BC 1344)
Di Andrews and other Black Sash members demonstrating next to a busy road. The placards read: "Black River (Fraserdale). White Group Area. Illegal". A member of Special Branch stands in front of them taking their photograph. c.1966