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  • Date :
  • 7/9/2003
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

History of March 21

On March 21, 1960

, about 20,000 anti-apartheid demonstrators gathered outside the Sharpeville police station on the outskirts ofJohannesburg, South Africa. They were assembled to peacefully protest against a law that required black people to carry identification papers. Fewer than 100 police officers were present and tensions among them were high. When protesters began throwing stones, the police officers opened fire. As a result, 69 protesters died and 180 were wounded.

In 1966

, the United Nations declared March 21 the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in honor of those killed in the Sharpeville Massacre.

In 1983

, the General Assembly of the United Nations called upon all states and organizations to participate in a program of action to combat racism and racial discrimination.

On March 21, 1986

, the Prime Minister of Canada encouraged Canadians to join together and extend their efforts to "ensure the rapid eradication of racism and racial discrimination and the realization of mutual understanding, respect, equality, and justice for all Canadians." Two years later, ministers attending a human rights conference agreed to commemorate March 21 in all Canadian jurisdictions the following year.

In 1989

, Canada was the first country in the world to hold a national March 21 campaign. Students across the country started expressing their views and taking action against racism by participating in the "Together We're Better!" contest.

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