First Lady Michelle Obama laid a wreath at memorial erected in honor of Hector Pieterson, who at age 12 was killed by police in 1976 during a street protest over a law requiring that students be taught in Afrikaans, the language of the descendents of South Africa’s Dutch settlers instead of their own local languages.
Thirty-five years later, he continues to be a symbol of the clashes that occurred in the often-bloody struggle against apartheid. His killing led to the Soweto Uprising and other demonstrations across the country.
Pieterson’s sister, Antoinette Sithole, accompanied Obama as she paid homage to the young hero. She and her brother have been immortalized in a photo that shows her running alongside an older student carrying her brother’s lifeless body. The memorial is located not far from where Pieterson was killed.
Obama cited Petersen and the other young people who lost their lives that day, when she delivered a speech during the Young African Women Leaders Forum earlier today.
“It is because of them that we are able to gather here today. It is because of them that I stand before you as first lady of the United States of America,” she said.
“That is the legacy of the independence generation, the freedom generation. And all of you—the young people of this continent—you are the heirs of that blood, sweat, sacrifice, and love.”
Check out BET.com for daily updates from the first lady's trip. Twitter users will be able to track updates about the first lady's experiences and interact with others who are following the trip with the hashtag #youngafrica.
(Photo: EPA/Halden Krog/Landov)