Sheena Duncan by Annemarie Hendrickz

The biography, SHEENA DUNCAN, described by Mary Burton as ‘A rich and honest portrayal which demonstrates the power of dedicated resistance to injustice’, was first launched in Cape Town on the Black Sash’s 60th birthday celebrations on 19 May 2015.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was one of the many distinguished guests at 6 Spin Street and author Annemarie Hendrikz read his Introduction to SHEENA DUNCAN as part of the proceedings, following a moving tribute to Sheena from human rights activist colleague and friend, Aninka Claassens.

Sheena’s daughters Lindsay and Carey had travelled from Switzerland and Morocco respectively, to be present at this event and at the celebrations in Johannesburg. 

These were co-hosted by SAHA in the Atrium of the Women’s Jail on Constitution Hill on 23 May, with guests welcomed by Bongi Mkhabela, current Chairperson of the Black Sash Trust.  The morning was icy but the colloquium speakers kept hearts warmed with memories and celebrations of the past and present.

In Johannesburg there was also a book-breakfast at Sheena’s old school Roedean, and an evening bookshop launch at Love Books – the latter a candlelight event, courtesy Eskom load-shedding.

  • More details about the book, photos from the events and various media comments can be seen on the Facebook page.

  • SHEENA DUNCAN is available at all leading bookstores or as an ebook.  It can also be ordered through: Annemarie Hendrikz: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

The Black Sash by Mary Burton

This is the story of a remarkable organisation of mostly white, middle-class women who became known for standing silently in public, singly or in line, wearing a black sash and carrying a trademark poster in protest against the injustices of apartheid.

Though they lost their first campaign – against the disenfranchisement of ‘coloured’ voters in the mid-1950s – they turned their attention to other unjust laws and over the decades carved out a unique role for themselves, bearing witness, developing expertise and expert knowledge, and generally moving way ahead of the rest of white society in campaigning , for instance, for a universal adult franchise, for an end to capital punishment and for legal abortion.

Though harassed by the government, the Black Sash was one of the few white organisations that won widespread credibility and respect, both locally and abroad, and by the 1980s had become a recognised part of the broad movement for change in the country.


Writing from prison in 1985 to congratulate the Sash on its 30th anniversary, Nelson Mandela said:

“In spite of the immense difficulties against which you have to operate, your voice is heard right across the country. Even though frowned upon by some, it pricks the conscience of others and is warmly welcomed by all good men and women.”

This uniquely South African story is written by Mary Burton, herself a national president of the Black Sash for several years and, later, one of the Truth and Reconciliation commissioners. With an insider’s perspective she helps us understand what drove this group of women, what it was like to be involved, and what lessons we can learn from the Sash’s history.

Standing on Street Corners by Mary Kleinenberg and Christopher Merrett

The launch of Standing on Street Corners, by Mary Kleinenberg and Christopher Merrett, was held on 16 May, 2015 at the Tatham Art Gallery. The book, launched in time to celebrate the 60th birthday of the Black Sash, covers the history of the Black Sash in the Natal Midlands region.

Publishers, The Natal Society Foundation, say:

"This book looks specifically at the Natal Midlands (Pietermaritzburg) region and the distinctiveness of its contribution. Like other regions it supported the liberation struggle through public protest and educational campaigns aimed at exposing iniquitous apartheid legislation. In a police state this required considerable determination and courage. During the darkest hours Natal Midlands Sash kept alive hope for universal civil rights in a democratic South Africa. The Pietermaritzburg Advice Office became one of the country’s busiest, specialising in old age pension and disability grant issues. Knowledge painstakingly gathered about life for black South Africans was fed back into Sash’s political and information campaigns while Natal Midlands produced several significant publications. One of the smaller branches, it punched above its weight. Whether Sash was a political pressure group of women, or a women’s organisation challenging patriarchy it generated lively debate. Environmental issues were also accorded a high priority. Fifteen interviews show that involvement in Sash was a life-enhancing experience for many members who have looked back with pride and honour at their part in the anti-apartheid movement from 1955 to 1994."

Read more here

Co-author, Mary Kleinenberg, who has also been a trustee of the Black Sash since 1991 has this to say about the book: "It gave me enormous pleasure to record these events. I found digging through old documents, minutes, magazines, newspapers and books extremely rewarding. In the academic world this might be called ‘research’, but for me it was a journey into the workings of a remarkable organisation of women who cared enough to do something about what they saw as wrong."

The selling price for the book is R210.00, from book shops, however some copies were generously given to the Black Sash to sell for its projects, and these can be purchased at R200. The book is freely downloadable here (as 2 megabyte file):