Skip to main content

PHIL 051: Human Rights and Atrocities (SC)

Apartheid in South Africa

Apartheid in South Africa was a series of policies and laws meant to establish racial segregation. The ruling National Party (NP) was made up of white Afrikaners of largely Dutch descent. Apartheid oppressed and disenfranchised Black South Africans. The NP came to power in 1948 and began to enact legislation designed to create racial categories and regulate them. “Black,” “white,” and “coloured” all had to carry race identification cards. “Whites” were legally banned from marrying “blacks” or “coloureds.”Areas of the country were established for each race, and during the 1960s-1980s, persons were forcibly displaced to those areas. “Black” and “coloured” persons were banned from serving in public office and stripped of their voting rights, and resistance to the NP was made illegal. In the “white” provinces, “blacks” and “coloureds” were prevented from owning land and working without a special permit. Beaches, pools, toilets, and bus stops were segregated. There was wide-spread police brutality. Resistance to apartheid came from university students, labor unions, church leaders, and the black consciousness movement. The African National Congress (ANC) was the largest resistance organization. In the late 1980s, international disapproval of apartheid began to put pressure on the NP to reform. Political violence escalated in the 1980s and the NP declared a state of emergency in 1985. This gave the government and military a great deal of power; many people were arrested, tortured, and killed. The state of emergency continued until 1990 when a new NP leader came to power. F.W. de Klerk moved quickly toward negotiations, lifted the ban on political parties, and released Nelson Mandela from prison after 27 years of confinement. Apartheid was dismantled between 1990-1993. The first national election was finally held in 1994.

Recommended Books

Research Leads

These links can help you start (or continue) exploring this atrocity from a variety of perspectives. Library resources such as Tripod and Proquest often work better for academic research than just using Google, because you will be more likely to find academic sources (e.g. peer-reviewed journal articles).

There are strategies for searching databases (and Google) more effectively, and Swarthmore's librarians would be happy to share their knowledge with you. Contact Anne Garrison (Humanities Librarian - agarris1@swat) or Sarah Elichko (Social Sciences Librarian selichk1@swat) to get some tips for your research.