Lilian Ngoyi

Clare Zarka - Block 4

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The Mother of the Black Resistance

Life and Accomplishments:1911-1980

Lilian Ngoyi distinguished herself as a truly courageous individual, and woman, during the anti-apartheid movement. She joined the ANC during the Defiance Campaign in 1950, and was quickly arrested for using whites-only public amenities. Within a year, she was elected president of the Women's League. In 1954, she was the vice-president of the newly formed Federation of South African Women, and would soon become president. Ngoyi traveled, illegally, to the World Congress of Mothers in 1955 and spoke for the Women's International Democratic Federation. She also traveled across the globe, to England, China, Germany, Switzerland, Romania, and Russia, appealing for support in ending apartheid. In 1956, she led a march against the extension of passbooks to non-white women. Ngoyi herself delivered thousands of women's petitions to the Prime Minister. This was one of the largest demonstrations South Africa has ever seen. But because of this, Ngoyi became a defendant in the infamous Treason Trial. In 1962, due to her extensive travels, Ngoyi was ordered to stay in Orlando with constant police monitoring. She could not meet with more than one person at a time, and lived in this way until her death. Following her death, Lilian Ngoyi was awarded the highest achievement of the liberation movement, Isitwalandwe,.

"God will help us only if we help ourselves."

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Significance and Importance

Lilian Ngoyi's greatest significance was her ability in expanding the anti- apartheid movement across several demographics. Ngoyi believed black women should be the forefront of the freedom struggle, as she though apartheid hurt women the most by denying their children of a future and hurting the family with Bantu Education, pass laws, and forced removals. Because of this, she challenged the sexism of anti-apartheid groups, including the ANC. She involved thousands of women in the anti-apartheid movement, leading one of the largest demonstrations in South Africa. Ngoyi also appealed for support in ending apartheid in the name of the international women's peace movement. In doing so, she was able to gain international support in the effort. Ngoyi brought the anti-apartheid movement to giant world centers and platforms, spreading the movement across the world. These trips also asserted the right of a colored person to travel freely. In doing so, Ngoyi defied a deep-rooted ideology of apartheid: the absolute prevention of mobility of a non-white. Lilian Ngoyi's impact on the apartheid movement was even noteworthy to the face of anti-apartheid, Nelson Mandela. In his 1994 Victory Speech, he stated, " I am personally indebted and pay tribute to some of South Africa's greatest leaders including... Lilian Ngoyi...should've been here to celebrate with us for this is [her] achievement too."

"All women would die for the future of their children."

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Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika

Nkosi sikelel' Afrika

Lilian led the thousands of women in song when the Prime Minister refused to address them in their protest. This song is now the South Africa National Anthem.

Women's Charter

Women`s Charter

17 April 1954 Johannesburg,

Preamble: We, the women of South Africa, wives and mothers, working women and housewives, African, Indians, European and Coloured, hereby declare our aim of striving for the removal of all laws, regulations, conventions and customs that discriminate against us as women, and that deprive us in any way of our inherent right to the advantages, responsibilities and opportunities that society offers to any one section of the population.

This was drafted by the Federation of South African Women with Ngoyi as the vice president. It is interesting to note that this was drafted before the Freedom Charter, and many of the ideas presented are strikingly similar.


Grant, Nicholas. "Black History Month: Lilian Masediba Ngoyi (1911-1980)." Womens History Network Blog Black History Month Lilian Masediba Ngoyi 19111980 Comments. 17 Oct. 2010. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
"Lilian Masediba Ngoyi." Sahistory. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

Wyk, Chris. Lilian Ngoyi. Gallo Manor, South Africa: Awareness Pub., 2006. Print.