The first act of defiance
February 12, 1920 — February 20, 2005
Artist: Mxolisi Sapeta and Andrew Lindsay
Location: Red Location Museum, New Brighton, Port Elizabeth
Installed outside the Red Location Museum, the Raymond Mhlaba memorial — a floor mosaic depicting scenes from the 1952 defiance campaign — was created by Andrew Lindsay from a concept by Mxolisi Sapeta.
Picture: Gary Horlor © Sunday Times
In the early hours of June 26, 1952, after praying through the night, Raymond Mhlaba led 30 volunteers to defy apartheid by entering the "Europeans Only" section of New Brighton railway station, Port Elizabeth, the first act in a nationwide defiance campaign in response to the passage of a slew of apartheid legislation. They were swiftly arrested, and Mhlaba served a month’s hard labour. As one of the Rivonia treason trialists a decade later, Oom Ray, as Mhlaba was affectionately known, was sentenced to life imprisonment. He served 26 years, and went on to become the first premier of the new Eastern Cape.
From The Archives75 pieces of apartheid legislation
To consolidate its position after coming to power in 1948, the National Party government promulgated laws which deprived all non-whites of basic rights. Some of the laws enacted from the late 1940s and early 1950s are described here by Elinor Sisulu.Defiance at the station: Mhlaba's memories of the moment
In this excerpt from his memoirs, Raymond Mhlaba describes the chilling moments when the 1952 defiance campaign kicked off at New Brighton station.Politics and Prayer: The role of religion in Eastern Cape struggle politics
Religion was a heady part of liberation politics in the Eastern Cape, with prayers and religious fervour adding heat to the brew.Why the defiance campaign was "most dramatic" in the Eastern Cape
Historians Phil Bonner and Tom Lodge explore why participation in the defiance campaign was so passionate in the Eastern Cape, while, in his personal memoirs, Raymond Mhlaba describes local factors that contributed to the fervent support it received.The ANC's growth after the defiance campaign
The publicity the ANC received as a result of the defiance campaign and, undoubtedly, the tireless efforts of its leaders at branch and national level, helped the organisation to gain more members.Mhlaba in exile and in Umkhonto we sizwe
After going into exile, Raymond Mhlaba underwent military training in southern China where, among other things, the Chinese taught him and his comrades hit-and-run techniques using self-made weapons.
Life Stories"Oom Ray" and the power of mass action
Raymond Mhlaba was the first leader to be arrested in the 1952 defiance campaign, during which thousands of South Africans of all races broke unjust laws in a non-violent effort to resist apartheid.The man who opened the way
Some of the original members of the group led by Raymond Mhlaba into the "Europeans Only" section of the New Brighton railway station look back in sadness at the days when "blacks were treated like dogs".
Making the MemorialWho are Mxolisi Sapeta and Andrew Lindsay?
Mxolisi "Dolla" Sapeta, a former art lecturer from Port Elizabeth, and Andrew Lindsay, a Joburg-based gallerist and curator, pooled their talents to conceptualise and create the memorial to Raymond Mhlaba’s role in the 1952 defiance campaign.The Light Bulb Moment: The Artist's concept
The scenes on Mhlaba's memorial depict scenes from the 1952 Defiance Campaign - the two artists who created the piece elaborate.