“In 1955, six White women in Johannesburg said enough is enough when the government enacted a law to disenfranchise “Coloured” (mixed-race) South Africans, rescinding their right to vote. Along with a wave of other women, my mother, Peggy Levey, joined this group. Their formal name was the Women’s Defense of the Constitution League, but everyone called them the Black Sash. She was soon elected regional chair.
We lived in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province, a world away from Johannesburg. My mother was regional chair of the National Council of Women and would later be mentioned as a potential candidate for Parliament. Now she stood in the town square carrying a placard and actually wearing a black sash to mourn the death of the constitution, as the government set about eliminating the few remaining rights of non-White South Africans.
It is hard to convey the courage and conviction it took to join, let alone lead Black Sash in a police state. Members were spat on and sworn at as they held their placards, and some old friends avoided them, afraid of association with dissidents. Some of my classmates weren’t allowed to play with me after school. But for my mother, Black Sash was only the beginning.”
Read the full article in the Spring 2021 Edition of Reinventing Home