Year of Fire, Year of Ash

The Soweto Schoolchildren’s Revolt that Shook Apartheid

Baruch Hirson
With a Foreword by Shula Marks

New Edition


One of the leading studies of the Soweto Revolt, authored by a distinguished anti-apartheid activist..

‘We can say without fear of being contradicted by history, that June 16, 1976 heralded the beginning of the end of the centuries-old white rule in this country.’
Nelson Mandela

Originally banned on publication by the apartheid government, Year of Fire, Year of Ash is an eye-opening account of how, in June 1976, 20,000 school students faced down the tanks and guns of a vicious racist regime, in a revolt that galvanized the black working-class and became a pivotal turning point for the anti-apartheid movement. More than this, the book overturns much of the conventional logic that served to explain the event at the time, showing it was not simply a student protest, but part of a wider uprising.

Released in this new edition to mark the fortieth anniversary, Year of Fire, Year of Ash provides an unparalleled insight into the origins and events of the uprising, from its antecedents in the 1920s to its role in inspiring global solidarity against apartheid. As South Africa experiences a new wave of popular discontent, and as new forms of black consciousness come to the fore in movements around the world, Baruch Hirson’s book provides a timely reminder of the Soweto revolt’s continued significance to struggles against oppression today.

Author Bio

Baruch Hirson (1921-1999) was a lifelong activist who spent nine-and-a-half years in South African prisons as a result of his opposition to the apartheid regime. Following his release in 1973 he left for England, where he lectured in history at several universities and produced eight finely written, passionately argued books on the history of the left in South Africa. These include Yours for the Union (1989), The Cape Town Intellectuals (2000) and his autobiography, Revolutions in my Life (1995). He also founded the controversial critical journal Searchlight South Africa. Year of Fire, Year of Ash, originally banned in South Africa, remains the most widely read of all his books.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword by Shula Marks
  • Nineteen Seventy-Six by Oupa Thando Mthimkulu
  • Introduction
  • PART I: From School Strikes to Black Consciousness
    • 1. The Black Schools: 1799–1954 
    • 2. Bantu Education: 1954–1976 
    • 3. The University Student Movements: 1960–1969
    • 4. Black Consciousness Politics: 1970–1974 
    • 5. Secondary Schools and the African School Movement 
    • 6. The Black Consciousness Movement: Ideology and Action
  • PART II: Workers and Students on the Road to Revolt 
    • 7. Black Workers Set the Pace 
    • 8. The Strike Wave Spreads
    • 9. State Repression and Political Revival: 1974–1976 
    • 10. The Soweto Revolt: June 1976 
    • 11. The Revolt Takes Shape 
    • 12. The Cape Province Explodes 
    • 13. New Tactics in the Revolt
    • 14. The Revolt Winds Down 
  • PART III: Black Consciousness and the Struggle in S. Africa 
    • 15. Anatomy of the Revolt 
    • 16. Black Consciousness in South African History


'A seminal text to which new historical work continues to speak...a book for our time.'
LSE Review of Books

'Hirson’s book provides a timely reminder of the continued significance of the Soweto revolt to struggles against oppression today.'
Books Live


Publication Date: 15 June 2016
368 pages

Not available in: South Africa

Product ISBNs: Paperback 2nd Edition: 9781783608966
eBook ePub 2nd Edition: 9781783608973
eBook PDF 2nd Edition: 9781783608980
eBook Kindle 2nd Edition: 9781783608997

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