Origins of Apartheid

The apartheid era of South African history has roots in European colonial conquest and the harsh, oppressive form of capitalism subsequently imposed on the native Africans. The racism and economic drive that led the Europeans to colonize much of Africa was continued and even worsened under the apartheid era.

The Dutch settlers, having noticed the natural mining potential in South Africa, put native South Africans to work in harsh working conditions for very little pay and limited blacks’ freedom. Racist laws enacted by the settlers helped them control the black population while reaping enormous profits from the unfair capitalistic practices unknown to the natives.

All South Africans were required to hold passes which stated where they were and were not allowed to work, live, and go to school. This was just one of the many discriminatory policies under apartheid that continued from colonialism. "Image: An African Man Shows His Pass Book." South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid. Michigan State University African Studies Center. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>.

Pass laws (see above) required that every Native African carry identification that stated where they could and could not be, work, or live. The Natives’ Land Act of 1913 further limited blacks in that it devoted 93% of the land in South Africa for whites, and it forced the blacks, making up 2/3 of the population in South Africa, to squeeze into “homelands,” which comprised the remaining 7% of the land. Any form of black solidarity was crushed by racist legislation, but blacks did come to identify themselves as “Africans” as a result of white supremacy. Violence towards blacks was encouraged through laws such as the Masters and Servants’ Act. These European discriminatory practices violated the South Africans’ human rights and also gave way to similar, yet more intense and institutionalized, treatment of blacks during apartheid.


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

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