The Height of Apartheid

Apartheid came to power in 1948 after having won an election by campaigning for increased segregation and apartness of the races. Apartheid was basically a continuation of the colonial mentality, but it attempted to systematically engrain in blacks minds, actions, and ways of life that they were, and would forever be, inferior to the white race. The goals of apartheid were to surpass segregation and to encourage harsher treatment towards blacks. Under apartheid, blacks could not vote, had to carry passes, and were restricted economically, socially, and politically. These laws passed in the 1950s as a part of “petty apartheid” led to an exacerbation of white mentality towards blacks (in terms of what whites thought was acceptable to do to blacks) as well as the continuously oppressed lives of native South Africans. It seemed as if blacks had no hope to escape the system that was being thrust upon them.

Two of the most influential acts of apartheid were the Population Registration Act and the Group Areas Act, which classified people racially and segregated them into residential areas called “townships” designed to separate and damage the existing black communities.

This is a photograph from a resettlement village in a homeland called KwaZulu in Natal where some of many black South Africans were forced to move because of apartheid."Image: A resettlement camp in a homeland." South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. <>.

In the process of organizing and moving South Africans into tribal groups that were unnatural and different, huge amounts of cultural diversity was lost (recall Sophiatown), but there was much more diversity to come on the horizon.

Trying to improve their lives after such harsh treatments without enough materials left many Africans in poverty and in danger of further oppression. The “homeland” policy from colonialism was re-instituted and nearly 3.5 million South Africans were evicted from their living areas and “dumped” into the homelands in the 1960s (see map below).

This map shows how the homeland policy under apartheid divided the black population of South Africa into communities that were not recognized by any country other than South Africa. "Image: Homelands." South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid. Web. 29 Nov. 2011.

In the homelands, the apartheid government approved leaders and governmental action, but this was a mere game of pretend. The apartheid government, by setting up these homelands, gave blacks insignificant control that served more as a means of mockery. To make matters worse, the apartheid regime arrested and imprisoned one of the most influential anti-apartheid activists, Nelson Mandela. In addition, the educational opportunities for blacks were severely curtailed as the doctrine of “separate and unequal” took hold during the apartheid rule. Censorship and propaganda were common tactics to withhold education from black people. Without doubt, every policy under apartheid was aimed to separate Africans from the West, and this meant to deny Africans every influence that might make them desire to be like whites, including music, education, revolutionary ideals, etc. However, local and (gradually) international resistance to apartheid limited the movement’s control on South African state of affairs, no matter how violent, twisted, racist, or inhumane apartheid actions became because Africans were increasingly enraged and by and committed to abolish the injustices of white rule.


“The Rise of Apartheid.” South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid. Michigan State University African Studies Center. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. <>.

Comments are closed.