Segregation is a concept as old as time, and it is not unique to the United States.
South Africa still suffers from the effects of an organized and government mandated
system of segregation called apartheid that lasted for over a quarter of a century.
Apartheid, literally translated from Afrikaans, means apartness (Mandela 40). It is
defined as a policy of racial segregation and “political and economic discrimination
against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa” (“Apartheid”). According
to Robin Cohen, South African apartheid was based on four basic premises: “white
monopoly of political power, the manipulation of space to achieve racial segregation, the
control of black labor, and urban social control” (qtd. in Massie 385). Apartheid was
widely supported by powerful nations, including the United States. However, the validity
of the arguments and actions that those supporters used was questionable and not based in
The brief history on South African apartheid that follows is essential to
understanding the whole picture.
Apartheid began as an implied law in the seventh century with the start of the
slave trade where an estimated 25 million blacks were sold into slavery over a period of
12 centuries (Stock 65). However, it was not until 1948 that the South African
government actually passed apartheid laws (“Timeline”). The Prohibition of Mixed
Marriages Act of 1949 strictly prohibited people of different races marrying and having
offspring (Stock 21).
The 1950s were the era of Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, the Minister of Native
Affairs, and later, Prime Minister of South Africa. The Population Registration Act of
1950 required all people to be designated and registered by a specific race: white, black,
or of mixed decent, considered colored (“History”). This designation was primarily
based on appearance, often by means of the “pencil in the hair” test. Officials would
begin by placing a pencil in a person’s hair. If the hair was curly enough to hold the
pencil while bending over, the person was black, and if the pencil fell out, the person was
colored (Massie 21). In 1951 homelands, or bantustans, were established (“Timeline”).
The homelands were South Africa’s equivalent to America’s reservations. Blacks, who
had no rights outside their h...
... middle of paper ...
...brary, Powell, WY. 7 Nov. 2004
“Allied with Apartheid: Reagan Supported Racist South African Gvt.” Democracy Now. 11 June 2004. Lexis Nexis. NWC Library, Powell, WY. 7 Nov. 2004
“Apartheid.” Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. 1994.
Geyer, A.L. “The Case for Apartheid, 1953.” Modern History Sourcebook. 19 Aug.
1953. EBSCOhost. NWC Library, Powell, WY. 7 Nov. 2004
“The History of Apartheid in South Africa.” Stanford Students. 7 Nov. 2004
“Justice for South Africa: Pay the Debt.” TransAfrica Forum. 2004. Lexis-Nexis.
NWC Library, Powell, WY. 7 Nov. 2004
Mandela, Nelson. Mandela: An Illustrated Autobiography. Boston: Little, Brown Company. 1994.
Massie, Robert K. Loosing the Bonds: The United States and South Africa in the Apartheid Years. New York: Bantam. 1997.
Stock, Robert. Africa South of the Sahara. New York: The Guliford Press. 1995.
“Timeline of South African Apartheid.” Northstar K-12. 7 Nov. 2004
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