In the 1940s, the South African government formally established apartheid (“apartness”) as a legal system to divide racial groups into a social hierarchy. This chapter examines apartheid’s restrictive policies, its fervent white supporters, and its determined non-white opponents.

Essential Questions

  • How did the white minority use apartheid to promote and protect its political, social, and economic power?
  • What were the ideas, tactics, and strategies used by those who resisted apartheid?
  • How did the implementation of apartheid change life for the South African people, and how did they respond?


Democracy & Civic Engagement

Early Apartheid: 1948-1970

Study the National Party’s implementation of strict racial laws, the forms of defiance by black South Africans and other minority groups, and the government’s harsh reaction to this defiance.

Reading 1 of 6
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Apartheid Policies

Read the National Party’s 1948 statement in support of apartheid, which justifies separation as a way to preserve the white European race.

Reading 2 of 6
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Experiencing Apartheid

Writer Mtutuzeli Matshoba provides a vivid account of life under apartheid through the story of his friend who was forcibly ejected from his home.

Reading 3 of 6
Democracy & Civic Engagement

A Wife's Lament

Consider the unique experiences of black South African women during apartheid, many of whom were forced to live far away from their husbands on bantustans.

Reading 4 of 6
Democracy & Civic Engagement

The Freedom Charter

Examine the 1955 Freedom Charter, established by the ANC and supporting groups, which calls for all races to enjoy equal rights, protections, and benefits under the law.

Reading 5 of 6
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Women Rise Up Against Apartheid and Change the Movement

Activist Frances Baard details the struggle of black South African women under apartheid and their active participation in anti-apartheid demonstrations, including the multiracial 1956 Women’s March on Pretoria.

Reading 6 of 6
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Mandela on Trial

Nelson Mandela describes the ANC and PAC’s shift from non-violent resistance of apartheid to violent sabotage under the militant faction MK in his testimony during the Rivonia Trial.

Search Our Global Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.