When Did Apartheid Start?

The history of apartheid in South Africa changed the lives of its people and in many ways the world too. It was formally implemented in 1948 but its roots actually go back hundreds of years.

Colonization: the Early Years

As early as the 17th century, the continent was subjected to colonization by Europeans. The Dutch in particular set up several colonies. Aside from the fertile land, it was also filled with diamonds and other precious stones. The discovery of these diamonds led to the Dutch / English war in the 1900s.

There was a ceasefire and a power sharing agreement. It was also at the time that laws concerning the black people were enacted. These laws would be an important part in the history of apartheid.


In 1948 the Afrikaner Party gained power. Their goal was to set down the rules that would ensure the separation of whites and blacks.

The enacted laws were created to cover every aspect of the lives of blacks and whites. Among the many laws were banning interracial marriages. There were also jobs that were created only for whites. In the 1950s, a measure called the Population Registration Act was passed. Basically it stated that there were only three races in South Africa: the whites, colored and blacks.

By definition the colored races included Asians, Indians, half blacks etc. Everyone was subjected to these laws. Refusal to recognize it meant severe punishment.

The Homelands Law

This law was an integral part in the history of apartheid in South Africa. This allowed the government could designate certain places or homelands for every black or colored resident. Their rights and privileges would be limited to that area. Before they can enter other parts of South Africa they would need documentation and other travel papers.

Another law was the Public Safety Act. These laws were designed to punish those who tried to go against this law. People could be locked up without trial for months on end. A lot of the black people who fought against these rules were detained for years. They were beaten and tortured. One of these was Nelson Mandela.

End of the Racial Discrimination

The final chapters of the history of apartheid would come in the early 1990s. International communities and nations condemned these laws and there was pressure for the government to repel these laws. As a result, its economic situation worsened. Mass demonstrations and rallies led to its dissolution. By the early 1990s the entire series of laws against blacks and minorities were repelled.

Free elections were held on April 27, 1994. Hundreds of thousands of South Africans participated in the exercise. Although there was violence in weeks prior to the elections, the day itself was quite peaceful. Today that date has become known as Freedom Day and is celebrated by the people.

The history of apartheid in South Africa is something that its people will never forget. It once again shows how through determination, the people can overcome the odds and regain their freedom.

Related Posts