Endgame Apartheid Timeline


Apartheid as an official government policy of racial segregation in South Africa began in the 20th century, but the roots of inequality date back to colonial times in a country where blacks have always outnumbered whites. Among the earliest Afrikaners (South Africans of Dutch descent) to settle the country were the Boers, who arrived in the 1600s, displacing local tribes. The British arrived more than 100 years later, occupying South Africa as a base of protection, but they eventually took over, integrating South Africa into the larger British Empire.

In this timeline, trace the important political and social events in South Africa that shaped, supported and ultimately led to the demise of apartheid.

Select markers in the timeline above to see the events that strengthened and weakened apartheid.

1910: Union of South Africa Formed
The Union of South Africa is formed under British dominion. The South Africa Act of 1909 has taken away the political rights for most black South Africans.

General Louis Botha, first premier of the Union of South Africa © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

1911: Acts Affecting Workers
The Native Labor Regulation Act prohibits black South African workers from striking. The Mines and Works Act denies black South Africans industrial competency certificates required for mining positions.

1912: Native National Congress Formed
Black South African leaders form the Native National Congress (what would later be called the African National Congress — ANC) to resist white domination.

1913: Native Lands Act
The Native Lands Act gives less than 10 percent of the country's land to black South Africans, who comprise 80 percent of the population.

1936: Representation of Natives Act
The Representation of Natives Act undermines black South Africans' political rights in some regions, placing them on separate rolls and allowing them to vote only for white representatives.

1946: Black South African Mine Workers Strike
More than 75,000 black South Africans go on strike for higher wages. More than 1,000 workers are injured or killed by police.

Workers inside South African goldmine
© Bettmann/CORBIS

1948: Afrikaner National Party Rises to Power
The ultra-right Afrikaner National Party rises to national power on a platform of legalized racial segregation, or "apartheid" — Afrikaans for "separateness."

South African shanty town, 1948
© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

1950: The Population Registration Act
The Population Registration Act classifies South Africans into three racial groups: white, colored (mixed race or Asian), and Bantu/native (African/black). The Group Areas Act sets aside specific communities for each race.

Four schoolboys represent South Africa's racial scale © Alain Nogues/Sygma/Corbis

1951: Bantu Authorities Act
The Bantu Authorities Act creates ten black South African "homelands" as independent states, stripping millions of their South African citizenship and requiring blacks to carry passports to enter white areas.

Policeman checking passports
© Bettmann/CORBIS

1952: Abolition of Passes Act
The Abolition of Passes Act ends the "pass" system but actually requires all black South Africans to carry "reference" books with various forms of identification. Burning these books becomes a form of protest.

Black South Africans on train, 1952
© Bettmann/CORBIS

1953: Reservation of Separate Amenities Act
The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act legalizes the "separate but not necessarily equal" public places for blacks, "coloreds," and whites that have sprung up since 1948.

Slums of Sophiatown, 1954
© Bettmann/CORBIS

1960: The ANC Radicalizes
Part of the ANC works in exile against apartheid, with the others, led by Nelson Mandela, launch an armed resistance in the country.

Nelson Mandela, 1961 © Reuters/Corbis

March, 1960: Sharpeville Massacre
More than 70 black South Africans are killed in Sharpeville after refusing to carry their reference books. The government bans the ANC and the Pan-African Congress.

Policeman stands over corpse, Sharpeville
© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

1962: UN Special Committee Against Apartheid Formed
The United Nations establishes the Special Committee Against Apartheid to support a process of peaceful change in South Africa.

Aerial of the United Nations Building and East River, 1962 © Charles E. Rotkin/CORBIS

1964: Nelson Mandela Imprisoned
Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life in prison.

Free Mandela graffiti, 1964, England
© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

1966: Hendrik Verwoerd Assassinated
National Party Prime Minister and "architect of apartheid" Hendrik Verwoerd is assassinated.

Dr. Verwoerd in London, 1961 © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Mid 1970s: Anti Apartheid Movement Grows
The anti-apartheid movement gains momentum with increased organization and participation by whites.

Peter Hain Stages Anti-Apartheid Protest outside Barclays Bank, 1977 © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

1970s: Resettlements
More than 3 million black South Africans are forced to resettle in "reserves."

South African shanty town, 1979
© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

1976: Soweto Uprising
Black South African students protest educational discrimination. Police kill more than 500 people and injure thousands more.

Soweto students in 2004 remember the Soweto Uprising
© Gideon Mendel/CORBIS

1977: Steve Biko Dies
Steve Biko, leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, is beaten and arrested, dying in police custody.

Steve Biko funeral, 1977 © Selwyn Tait/CORBIS SYGMA --

1985: State of Emergency
President P.W. Botha declares a state of emergency and implements martial law. Over the next four years, thousands of blacks are detained or killed.

P.W. Botha, circa 1985
© David Turnley/CORBIS

1986: U.S. Calls for Sanctions in South Africa
1986: The U.S. passes the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, calling for sanctions against South Africa and stated preconditions for lifting the sanctions.

Press conference on apartheid sanctions, 1986
© Bettmann/CORBIS

1989: Apartheid Laws Relaxed or Repealed
F.W. de Klerk replaces P.W. Botha as state president and relaxes or repeals some segregationist laws, like those separating whites and non-whites in public places.

Men taking down a "Whites Only" beach sign, 1989 © Reuters/CORBIS

1990: Mandela and Others Released
De Klerk lifts the ban outlawing the ANC and frees Nelson Mandela and five other anti-apartheid activists. The ANC suspends its armed struggle against the white-led government.

Nelson Mandela waves after his release in 1990
© Louise Gubb/CORBIS SABA

1991: De Klerk Calls for a New Constitution
De Klerk repeals the remainder of the apartheid laws and calls for a new constitution.

F.W. de Klerk, 1989
© Richard Olivier/CORBIS

1993: Transitional Government Approved
A multiracial, multiparty transitional government is approved.

ANC Leader Thabo Mbeki, 1993
© Louise Gubb/CORBIS SABA

1994: First Democratic Elections
South Africa holds its first democratic elections. Nelson Mandela is elected President.

Nelson Mandela at pre-election rally, 1994
© Louise Gubb/CORBIS SABA

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