Apartheid was the South African race policy that separated black and white citizens and remains a terrible stain on the country's history. It began in 1948 and ended in 1994 resulting in terrible violence, persecution, and suffering. The roots of apartheid run deep. In the 1650s, Dutch settlers arrived in South Africa and formed the Cape of Good Hope. Then, the Dutch East India Company brought in slaves from all over the world. The Dutch, later known as the Afrikaners, struggled to hold onto power as more English-speaking settlers arrived. The Anglo-Boer war resulted in a loss of sovereignty for the Dutch Boers, and the British established slavery officially in the wake of their victory.
In the early 1900s, the British began implementing race separation laws for blacks and whites in South Africa. One of these laws forced the country's black population (which formed the racial majority) to live on a restricted territory. Meanwhile, the white National Party used black South Africans as cheap labor. This arrangement lasted throughout the WWII era. However, Afrikaner farmers started to lament the migration of cheap black laborers to urban areas. In 1948, Daniel Malan was elected Prime Minister of South Africa and outlined policies for complete segregation. Any non-white South Africans, including black, Asian, and mixed-race citizens, were forced out of cities and into "homelands." In addition, they were no longer considered citizens in the "white" parts of South Africa. Malan introduced four major laws intended to keep tabs on South Africa's non-white population, including the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages and the Prohibition Registration Act.
The following Prime Minister, Hendrick Verwoerd, is known as the most prominent architect of apartheid. After his election in 1958, he tried to make apartheid more palatable to the public, referring to the oppressive policies as "separate development." Within their homelands, black South Africans now had economic, social and political freedom. Despite the positive rhetoric, non-white South Africans could still not vote, own land, move to another country, or choose their own jobs. They had to carry passbooks at all times containing their personal documents, like birth certificates and marriage licenses. If a non-white South African was caught without his or her passbook, it could lead to imprisonment and torture.
Resistance against apartheid began in the 1950s with the formation of the African National Congress, which boasted Nelson Mandela as a member. The group staged the peaceful Defiance Campaign of Unjust Laws and called for equal civil rights for all South Africans. Many of the ANC activists were arrested, but were put on trial in 1961 and subsequently acquitted.
The Pan Africanist Congress focused on an Anti-Pass Laws campaign. Their movement resulted in the infamous Sharpsville Massacre that took place in March of 1960. A few years later, the ANC formed a military wing, resulting in the imprisonment and exile of Nelson Mandela and many others. Soon thereafter, Verwoerd's government deemed resistance to apartheid to be illegal.
The world began to focus on the trouble in South Africa, and in response, the country withdrew from the United Nations and the British Commonwealth. Verwoerd was assassinated in 1966 by a mixed-race parliamentary messenger. His successor, Baltazar Johannes Vorster, relaxed some of more petty laws of the apartheid era, but in theory, he remained committed to white supremacy.
In 1983, six hundred South African organizations came together to form the United Democratic Front. It called for the elimination of homelands and the government's endorsement of the Freedom Charter. In response, the government claimed a state of emergency, and federal soldiers began to mercilessly arrest, beat, and torture non-white South Africans. Other countries stopped business transactions with South Africa as a result of the violent oppression, and the country plunged into an economic depression.
In 1989, National Party leader Frederik Willem de Klerk released all of South Africa's black political prisoners and announced to Parliament that apartheid was a failure. Racial violence continued even though the South African government legally allowed all political parties. Nelson Mandela was freed in 1993. The next year, apartheid officially ended. Mandela became the first freely elected President of South Africa and instituted full equality for all South Africans. He quickly implemented democratic elections, abolished the homelands, and implemented a new constitution.