Apartheid literally means "apartness" in Afrikaans and Dutch. The apartheid system segregated groups along racial lines. The groups were mainly White, Black, Indian, and Coloured. These classifications determined one's geography, job, economic status, and access to resources such as education and healthcare. Although apartheid was not legally put in place until the takeover by the white Afrikaaner-run National Party in 1948, it has its roots in South Africa's colonial past under British rule. Under colonial rule the object was political separation, termed "grand apartheid." Segregation, termed "petty apartheid," did not come into play until National Party came into rule.
During apartheid not only mixed-race marriages but also interracial sex was prohibited. Every individual was classified by race. If the race of an individual was ambiguous, a committee was formed to settle the matter. Just as in America, the society claimed to uphold a standard of "separate but equal" treatment that led to wild disparity in practice. Black hospitals were inadequately funded and staffed; housing in black areas rarely had plumbing and electricity.
Resistance to Apartheid came in the form of the African National Congress (ANC) and other political entities. They staged protests, marches, and strikes. As the atrocities of apartheid gained Western attention in the 80's, the apartheid state was swiftly weakened. In the final years of apartheid, South Africa was in a state of emergency. The most violent years were from 1985-1988, during which the government became a police state crushing any opposition or threat to its authority. In 1994, Nelson Mandela won the first post-apartheid election by a landslide and became the first president of South Africa.