Early Apartheid: 1948-1970 | Facing History & Ourselves
A group of women hold signs in demonstration against the pass laws in Cape Town on August 9, 1956, the same day as the massive women’s protest in Pretoria.

Early Apartheid: 1948-1970

Learn about the early development of apartheid as the white South African government formed a legal system of racial hierarchy and non-white South Africans resisted these laws.


At a Glance

chapter copy


English — US


  • History
  • Social Studies


  • Democracy & Civic Engagement


About this Chapter

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.

  • 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?

This chapter is from the Early Apartheid: 1948-1970 section of Confronting Apartheid and includes:

  • 6 readings 
  • Connection Questions

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