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In the 1950s, the struggle of black South Africans and African Americans against institutionalized oppression intensifies. Through defiance of unjust laws and attempts to create new laws, resistors fight for human and legal rights, including the essential right of every citizen to vote.

Unit Themes and Topics:
changing role of government
human rights and the struggle for justice
racism, apartheid, and segregation
social movements

Connections Across History
connection: when: where: program:
feminist movement 1917-1996 Iran, Mexico, United States "Half the People"
youth movement 1950-1975 Great Britain, France, United States "Young Blood"
environmental movement 1959-1990 India, Japan, United States "Endangered Planet"
religious fundamental movements 1978-1992 Iran, United States "God Fights Back"

Rev. Michael Weeder
(priest, South Africa)

"Going to the voting booth was like going to a very private chapel. There were elements of great joy, of knowing that this is a victory, this is a burial of something very evil...What was also an element of great sadness was knowing that I was doing something which my father couldn't do."
photographic portrait of Rev. Michael Weeder

Note to Teachers:

This program contains scenes of violence and the use of derogatory racial language. We recommend that you preview the program before using it in the classroom.


Before Watching

1. Discuss the following definition of racism: Power plus prejudice equals racism. Ask students if, according to this definition, racism exists in the United States today. How is racism the same as, or different from, prejudice or bias?

2. Read the quotation (see box) and ask students to guess the race, gender, and nationality of the speaker and when the statement was made. How does the quotation reflect experiences in both South Africa and the United States? As students watch the program, have them write down other parallels between the two countries.

After Watching

1. How did the laws in South Africa and the United States support apartheid and segregation? How were laws used to fight against apartheid and segregation? If segregation exists in practice, what difference does it make if it is legal or illegal?


As a class, create two lists: ways that apartheid enforced inequality in South Africa, and ways that segregation enforced inequality in the United States. Divide the class into teams and ask each team to compare the policies and effects of apartheid and segregation in one area for example, voting rights, education, housing, public accommodations, employment, marriage, or transportation. Have students use their research to create a fictional dialogue between a South African and an American about the similarities and differences found in the two countries.

Ask students to think of how different forms of racism, prejudice, or intolerance have affected their lives. Then have them depict the personal impact of racism or intolerance through a story, essay, poem, illustration, collage, or sculpture. They may want to include suggestions on how to combat or eliminate racism or prejudice.

The Anatomy of Racism

The following lesson focuses on a program segment about the doctrine of apartheid. Black and white South Africans explain how apartheid shaped their lives.
Program Segment
approximately 8 minutes

The beginning of the program

Nomathamsanqua Koha explains that whites were not allowed to receive blood transfusions from blacks.


Before Watching

1. What kinds of inequality does our society forbid, and why? What kinds of inequality does our society permit? How have ideas about equality changed in the course of American history?

2. As students watch the program segment, have them write down ways that the doctrine of apartheid reinforced inequality between blacks and whites.

After Watching

1. How do different speakers in the program segment describe black South Africans' quality of life? What do differences between blacks' and whites' views of the same system tell you about how apartheid shaped people's perceptions and how apartheid perpetuated racism?

2. Did whites benefit from the hospital's policy of refusing to allow blood donations from blacks to whites? If so, how? How does this policy illustrate the nature of racism? What are other ways that racism in South Africa and the United States is destructive for whites as well as blacks?

3. In the program segment, Quintin Whyte, the director of the Institute of Race Relations in South Africa, defines apartheid as "the state of being apart." How would you define apartheid? How does it compare to the "separate but equal" doctrine that existed in the United States?


To help students appreciate the human cost of racism, have them read excerpts from Cry, the Beloved Country, a novel by Alan Paton (Scribner, 1948). Ask students to read chapter 10 and the first half of chapter 12, through the paragraph that begins, "Cry, the beloved country..." Then discuss how the readings relate to the program segment.

Divide students into five groups and assign each group a decade, from the 1940s to the 1990s. Ask each group to research important events, leaders, and issues in the U.S. civil rights movement of that decade. After students have completed their research, have them develop a class timeline that traces the modern history of the civil rights movement. Then have each student choose a person, event, or issue from the timeline and create a report in the form of a fact sheet, essay, editorial, short story, photo essay, song, speech, monologue, or poster. Encourage students to consider how the form and the content of their report expresses key aspects of their subject.

Note: For a historical look at how race came to be defined in America prior to 1861, watch the PBS series Africans in America, originally broadcast in Fall 1998.

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