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Dutch colonists Boers load supply-filled wagons in preparation for their migration into the interior of South Africa in the s. Having lived as independent pioneer farmers for many decades, the Boers resented British rule. When the new rulers of the Cape abolished slavery in , many Boers objected. To maintain their way of life, Boer farmers moved north in search of new land outside British control. After killing or violently driving out these local black South African populations, like the Ndebele, and decisively defeating the Zulu in the Battle of Blood River in , the Trekboers occupied large portions of land, particularly in a fertile plateau area known as the Highveld.

The black South Africans who had formerly lived in some of these territories were pushed increasingly into more remote and less fertile territories. The British occupied Natalia, strategically located along the coast, in and changed its name to Natal. Because Transvaal and the Orange Free State were far from the coast and seemed to have little value, the British allowed them to exist for a while as independent states.

A history of apartheid, an icon in the making

Eventually, however, diamonds and gold were discovered on the lands the Trekboers claimed. In spite of this extraordinary opportunity to enrich themselves, the Boers chose to maintain their rural agrarian lifestyle, allowing outside interests to exploit the new resources—particularly British investors, who established mines.

Many British thought of the Boers as backward farmers, while the Boers referred to the newcomers as rooineks , a pejorative reference to sunburned necks. The Boers, semi-nomadic farmers of Dutch descent, often lived in impoverished conditions due to social isolation and their views on racial superiority. Here, in an early and simple form, are the roots of the identities the two main European groups would come to embrace in South Africa.


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If the Boers saw themselves as pioneers, fighting to fulfill their destiny in the vast landscape imagined as uninhabited, the British fancied themselves enlightened and rather liberal rulers. Both groups saw themselves as superior to the local black South African populations, whom they considered uncivilized, unproductive, and violent.

These racist attitudes shaped European interactions with black South Africans and served to justify the increasing oppression of the majority of the population in the territory. As the British and Boers competed for control of the region, the British offered promises of security to some black South African groups threatened by the Boer republics.

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In practice, these protectorates became British colonies, where the leaders gradually lost control over their own territories. At the same time, as the British sought to extend their control and gain access to more land in the Cape Colony and later Natal, they used force to suppress other groups, such as the Xhosa, who faced a series of British attacks throughout the s, and the Zulu, who faced a large-scale British attack in For all of their talk of enlightened attitudes toward black South Africans, the British proved themselves to be as interested in colonial conquest and domination as the Boers.

People from the British colony of India began to arrive in South Africa in large numbers after the British abolished slavery throughout their empire in , forcing settlers to seek new forms of cheap labor. Many chose to stay.

A history of Apartheid in South Africa | South African History Online

They generally came from a merchant background and set up retail shops; competition with European shop owners led to widespread discrimination. Indian merchants, who initially operated in Durban, expanded inland to Transvaal, establishing communities and settlements between Johannesburg and Durban. The Indian population was concentrated in the Natal colony, where, by , they had expanded enough to outnumber the white South Africans in the region.

Their economic power swelled at that time, and in coal mines they made up The discovery of diamonds in in the Orange Free State and gold in in Transvaal marked a major turning point in South African history. The diamond and gold fields—all in the hands of entrepreneurs with ties to England—turned out to be extremely productive. The Dutch-speaking population in southern Africa increasingly viewed themselves as a distinct national group. Favoring a farming lifestyle, the Afrikaners had limited interest in developing the resources newly discovered in their territories at first, but the British regarded this as a great opportunity.

The British easily gained control of the Kimberley diamond mines, simply annexing the area to the Cape Colony. But the Witwatersrand in Transvaal, where the gold reserves were located, was in the heart of the territory controlled by the Afrikaners. The British had originally moved to annex the South African Republic Transvaal in , even before the discovery of gold in the territory, but the population of Transvaal rose up against the British attempt at occupation and successfully defeated the British in an — war, regaining independence for the South African Republic.

When gold was discovered in the Witwatersrand a few years later, British interest in the Transvaal intensified.

Large numbers of Europeans from Great Britain, Wales, Germany, and elsewhere migrated to Transvaal to work in the mines. British capitalists invested heavily in developing gold mines, and British-run conglomerates soon monopolized the mining industry. Facing taxes and administrative obstruction from the Transvaal government, the mine owners appealed to the government of Great Britain to intervene on their behalf.

For their part, the Afrikaners had considerable antipathy toward the British, as reflected in the reading Afrikaner Identity , and their governments moved to limit growing British dominance. The decision by the Afrikaner government to build a railroad line that would link the gold mines to the coast through the Portuguese territory of Mozambique rather than through Natal proved to be the final straw. In and , Cecil Rhodes consolidated a number of individual diamond mine claims around Kimberley to form a single company called De Beers Consolidated Mines.

The British moved to occupy Transvaal again in While both sides suffered immense casualties during this war, the Afrikaners regarded British actions as particularly brutal. The British torched farms in the Transvaal and Orange Free State, destroying crops and killing cattle, and they placed families in concentration camps, where some 26, Boers died of famine and disease. The memory of the war played an integral role in the solidification of modern Afrikaner national identity in the s and s.

Having been occupied repeatedly and ultimately defeated by the British, the Afrikaners regarded themselves as a persecuted group whose God-given rights to control South Africa were being denied by the British. As the Afrikaner nationalist movement grew over the course of the next century, these Africans of European descent asserted their own rights in part by denying those of the indigenous black South African population.

With Britain in control and the region becoming more urban and industrialized, Afrikaners felt increasingly marginalized by their fellow whites. Many moved to the cities, joining a multitude of immigrants and local people clamoring for industrial employment. Some sought work in the mines, competing for jobs with black South African migrants.

Owners of the mines, most of whom were either English or had strong ties to England, grew concerned about the labor situation. The owners viewed the workers on whom they relied as a threat. The Afrikaners, though defeated in the war, remained resentful and could potentially turn to violence again. The mines relied on extensive human labor, and the owners encouraged blacks from throughout southern Africa to migrate to the mines. Yet they also worried that blacks increasingly outnumbered whites in the region.

The owners were particularly worried that the white and black workers might unite across racial lines to force extensive and expensive concessions in terms of wages and improved working conditions. The controversial Land Act, passed three years after South Africa gained its independence, marked the beginning of territorial segregation by forcing black Africans to live in reserves and making it illegal for them to work as sharecroppers.

The Great Depression and World War II brought increasing economic woes to South Africa, and convinced the government to strengthen its policies of racial segregation. By , the government had banned marriages between whites and people of other races, and prohibited sexual relations between black and white South Africans. The Population Registration Act of provided the basic framework for apartheid by classifying all South Africans by race, including Bantu black Africans , Coloured mixed race and white.

A fourth category, Asian meaning Indian and Pakistani was later added. In some cases, the legislation split families; parents could be classified as white, while their children were classified as colored.

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In order to limit contact between the races, the government established separate public facilities for whites and non-whites, limited the activity of nonwhite labor unions and denied non-white participation in national government. Separating black South Africans from each other enabled the government to claim there was no black majority, and reduced the possibility that blacks would unify into one nationalist organization.

Apartheid Explained: Global History Review

From to , more than 3. Resistance to apartheid within South Africa took many forms over the years, from non-violent demonstrations, protests and strikes to political action and eventually to armed resistance. Together with the South Indian National Congress, the ANC organized a mass meeting in , during which attendees burned their pass books.

The group had arrived at the police station without passes, inviting arrest as an act of resistance. At least 67 blacks were killed and more than wounded. Sharpesville convinced many anti-apartheid leaders that they could not achieve their objectives by peaceful means, and both the PAC and ANC established military wings, neither of which ever posed a serious military threat to the state.

The gentrification of Soweto hides the scars of its cruel apartheid history

By , most resistance leaders had been captured and sentenced to long prison terms or executed. In , when thousands of black children in Soweto, a black township outside Johannesburg, demonstrated against the Afrikaans language requirement for black African students, the police opened fire with tear gas and bullets. Although these states condemned apartheid more than ever after South Africa's denunciation of the Lusaka Manifesto , South Africa's economic and military dominance meant that they remained dependent on South Africa to varying degrees [ clarification needed ].

South Africa's isolation in sport began in the mids and increased throughout the s. Apartheid forbade multiracial sport, which meant that overseas teams, by virtue of them having players of different races, could not play in South Africa.