What is Apartheid?

The nation of South Africa is located at the southern tip of the African continent.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa for his work involving the abolishment of apartheid.
South Africa ended apartheid with the electrion of Nelson Mandela.
Cape Town, South Africa.
The flag of the Republic of South Africa, which was adopted in 1994 after the end of apartheid.
Many Africans lived in terrible slums during apartheid.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2015
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Apartheid was a system of legal racial separation which dominated the Republic of South Africa from 1948 until 1993, However, the mechanisms of apartheid were set in place long before 1948, and South Africa continues to deal with the repercussions. Under apartheid, various races were separated into different regions, and discrimination against people of color was not only acceptable, but legally entrenched, with whites having priority housing, jobs, education, and political power. Although South Africa was heavily criticized for the system, it was not until 1991 that the legal system of apartheid began to be broken down, and in 1993 was thrown out altogether with the election of Nelson Mandela, the first black democratically elected President of South Africa. The term is also used more generally around the world to refer to systemic racism which is tolerated, rather than confronted.

Apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning “apart” or “separate,” and one of the first pieces of apartheid legislation was the Group Areas Act of 1950, which segregated living spaces, concentrating whites in the cities and forcing people of color into rural areas or the urban fringes. In addition to separating whites from nonwhites, apartheid also separated different races, and fraternization between Africans of different tribes, Asians, and Europeans was frowned upon. Whites and nonwhites held different jobs, lived in different regions, and were subject to different levels of pay, education, and health care. Apartheid paid no attention to former social or residential status, dividing people up by color.

When nonwhites were pushed out of the urban areas, most of them were shuffled into Bantustans, or “African homelands.” Because they were made citizens of the Bantustans, black South Africans were not allowed to participate in the government of South Africa, and were forced to carry passes and obey curfew laws if they wanted to travel outside of their homelands. The homelands were also established on land which was largely unusable, and were heavily reliant on South Africa for assistance. Along the fringes of the cities, Africans lived in massive, terrible slums, often separated from their families because only one family member could get a permit to live in the city.

Nelson Mandela, along with many others, is a member of the African National Congress, a group which worked to abolish apartheid. He joined right before the Second World War, and was part of a major push to make the African National Congress a national movement, incorporating ethics of nonviolent resistance, strikes, and mass civil disobedience to fight for equal rights. In 1952, he was tried in court for participating in the Campaign of Just Defiance, and given a suspended sentence. He spent time in and out of prison throughout the 1950s and became an attorney to help blacks who had been dispossessed under apartheid.

In 1960, the African National Congress was banned, and Mandela was one of the founding members of Umkhonto we Sizwe, a violent civil rights organization. His membership was shortlived, however; in 1962, after traveling out of the country to speak about the situation in South Africa and receive military training, Mandela was imprisoned for life, and not released until 1990. The African National Congress was reformed in 1991, as apartheid began to be dismantled, and Mandela was elected President of the organization, going on to take office as President of South Africa in 1994, serving through 1999. In 1993, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition for his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa.


Discuss this Article

Post 189

Some of these arguments are very dangerous. The end does not justify the means if the means by themselves are bad. Reading that the ANC only started to be violent after the Sharp Ville massacre is simply wrong, and even if this were the case, does this justify terrorism? And bombing hospitals is not a noble act of revenge, and neither is the attack on infrastructure killing civilians. These are the same arguments the Nazis used in Germany to justify their doings.

Nothing of this shall or should be used to justify apartheid. It was a bad choice and the supporters of it were wrong regarding my value system, but that does not make everybody who fought apartheid automatically a saint.

Post 187

Why did Nelson Mandela die?

Post 185

I think it is wrong for blacks to go to separate schools.

Post 184

RIP mandela. He was the best person and all Africans should learn from him.

Post 183

Was Mandela a Christian?

Post 182

Indeed, Nelson Mandela did get a lot of offers that would have gotten him out of prison, but if he had accepted, the white people would still keep doing the violence, and Apartheid would still be a thing!

ANC, which was the congress that Mandela did kind of run from inside prison, was peaceful until the Sharp Ville massacre (White people killed a lot of children who were at the school) which made them have no other choice then start using weapons. That's when Nelson had to join SACP (South Africa Communist Party) so he could get the resources, and help them keep Africa protected! So I think Nelson did his best and he did make peace for the blacks; he and ANC did it.

Post 170

This is exactly what we should know. There is no future without history. This is better than reading a book.

Post 169

Do any of you actually live in South Africa? Mandela was actually a terrorist who bombed buildings and encouraged violence. There were a lot of black people killed in his so-called peaceful demonstrations.

Do you know that during his time in prison, the white president went to him with an offer to be set free if Mandela agreed to stop the violence. Mandela never agreed to stop.

Post 167

For all the people commenting about where the word 'Apartheid' originated from, you're missing the point. This isn't about the 'Dutch' or the 'English' people. It's sbout South Africa.

Post 165

I think apartheid is stupid! Why should people be judged by their color of their skin? People should be judged for who they are inside. I would like to see anyone disagree with me.

Post 163

I love your web site and I want to learn about South Africa. My main interest is in Kenya and the Asolo tribe, because this where my husband is from.

Post 161

The world should be celebrating apartheid. Although the was much suffering to get to where we are, there must be labor pains for any birth, and the birth of freedom is not exempt. However, it is a birth that should be remembered, therefore requiring much pre-birth agony.

Post 160

This site is very simple, straightforward and educational. Great job! Cheers.

Post 158

@157: You are right that it isn't afrikaans, but it isn't dutch either. it is partly english and partly dutch.

Post 157

I don't intend to be rude or something, but the word 'apartheid' isn't created by Africans. It was created by the Dutch.

Post 155

What was africa like after this even took place?

Post 154

what happened when it ended?

Post 145

This really helped me with my literature essay on Nelson Mandela!

Post 138

For whoever was asking about how many people were white at the time of Aparthied, compared to who was not:

There were: 4.8 million white people; 24 million black people; 0.9 million of Asian origin; 2.8 million of mixed race.

These are actual numbers, found in the book "South Africa Since 1948" written by Jean Hayward and published in 1989 Wayland (publishers) Ltd.

Hope I could help!

Post 137

thanks this really helped with my english homework.

Post 123

this is totally the best site i have found. it is awesome and no they didn't spell afrikaan wrong. it is the way the natives are spelled.

Post 120

Thanks man. this really helped in my history class. By the way, Nelson Mandela is awesome.

Post 119

this site is pretty useful! thanks.

Post 118

to all people who said this is horrible, shame on you all. this is very useful for people who either didn't know about apartheid or have to get information on it.

Post 116

Thank you so much. this is helping a lot with my social studies homework.

Post 115

Thank you oh anonymous person. you are indeed wise. it really helped me. i would advise everyone to come on this website. Thanks!

Post 112

Why was apartheid introduced? What was the reasoning behind separating every race into its own area?

Post 110

short and sweet. very helpful. thanks

Post 108

Helping me with my school work! really good!

Post 107

thank you mystery person who wrote this. I'm going to pass my final, now, hopefully. it was very straightforward. i liked how i didn't have to read so much to get the point.

Post 99

dude you seriously spelled african wrong. you spelled it like afrikan.

Moderator's reply: "Afrikaans" is the correct spelling when referring to one of the languages spoken in South Africa. "Afrikaans" is a Dutch spelling. Not all words are spelled the same way in every language.

Post 96

It started in 1948 and ended in 1994. A year before my birthday!

Post 91

Thanks so much; this really helped me with my english work.

I hope someone else will soon laugh at this!

Post 90

Thanks. It was very fascinating and I learned something new!

Post 88


Post 87

This helped me so much with my school project. thanks.

Post 86

good site. got heaps of info.

Post 84

wow there's so much to learn about south africa.

Post 80

good site.

Post 79

this is very good. I found a lot here. thanks.

Post 78

Wow. What a great website this helped me a lot on my south africa project! Great facts and information on apartheid and poverty!

Post 76

wow. awesome facts straight up. Many sites neglect to include basic details. Definitely contributing to my assignment work. Who made this site? It's great, I want more.

Post 74

this helped me with my homework.

Post 73

Thank you so much. You really helped me with my homework. I got some great facts,and this page really helped and was great. Thanks!

Post 67

thanks a lot.

Post 66

thank you! this helped loads with my RE homework.

Post 65

thanks. this helped a lot with my social studies work. Just one question: How did apartheid start? Maybe i skipped over it but i couldn't seem to find the answer. Thanks again. ps. I love this site so much!

Post 64

thank you for helping me on my black history project to find out about apartheid because my mother would not tell me what is was. Thank you a lot.

Post 63

Thank you. It really helped with my geography homework. I didn't know what was going on most of the time!

Post 62

this site would help a lot of South African children and it helped me in my homework.

Post 61

this helped me a lot. thanks.

Post 60

this helped me with work.

Post 57

This helped me a lot in my homework. thanks.

Post 56

thank you. this helped me with my english work. :)

Post 53

this is good

Post 50

thank god, that helped me. but how are things now?

Post 49

Cheers! this help loads with my geography work!

Post 48

Thanks so much! This really helped me with my Social Studies project.

Post 47

It is an extraordinary web site and it helped me to complete my English assignment. Thanks a lot.

Post 46

thank you very much! this help me complete my research for my english class and this subject really is interesting. please continue on with this site. ~Anonymous xD~

Post 45

how has apartheid affected women in africa?

Post 41

thanks so much

Post 40

thanks this helped a lot in school!

Post 39

thanks. This helped me a lot on my homework :)

Post 38

thanks. helped me with my course work :)

Post 34

i love this website. it really helped me. thanks

Post 29

thanks. helped a lot on my project.

Post 24

This really helped on my history project. now I can please my history teacher.

Post 23

Thanks! I really needed this so I could please my history teacher. :D

Post 22

thank you. i'm doing a power point on this.

Post 21

thanks a lot!

Post 20

Thanks! This helped me a lot on my homework!

Post 18

i'm doing a project on this in school and this info helped a lot.

Post 17

besides the heartbreaking injustices, it's a real pity to see a beautiful, diverse and rich continent like africa being torn apart by war, disease and poverty.

Post 16

thanks a lot. this really helped.

Post 15

why was the apartheid introduced?

Post 11

I'd love to hear peoples opinion of apartheid and discrimination in South Africa. Thanks.

Post 10

Why did this happen?

Post 9

How much of the population was white and how much was not, at the time?

Post 7

Isn't it ironic now, if we look back at the achievements of that National Party, how it dwarfs that the ANC... sure their human rights record was bad. But their economic and technological achievements...of 4 million people... phenomenal.

Post 2

Who were the drivers behind the movement? It wasn't just the "Nationalist Party," it was certain specific people who had specific roles.

Post 1

What are measures to deal with apartheid?

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