How Long Did Apartheid Last (And Why)?

How Long Did Apartheid Last (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 42 years

Apartheid was the Afrikaans word for ‘separation,’ and it was used to characterize the racist political and economic system enforced on non-whites by the white minority. From 1948 until 1994, it was implemented by South Africa’s ruling party, the National Party.

How Long Did Apartheid Last

How Long Did Apartheid Last?

What happenedWhen happened
Apartheid started1948
Apartheid ended1990

South Africa has a long history of racial segregation, with racial legislation dating back to 1806. The Population Registration Act of 1950, however, significantly expanded it by categorizing South Africans into four groups: Bantu, Coloured, White, and Asian. The purpose of the Act was to keep white supremacy alive in the United States.

Men and women of color were compelled to stay in ten as such “black homelands,” where they were allowed to establish enterprises. Permits were necessary for them to live and work in designated “white districts.” Hospitals, pharmacies, buses, and other public amenities were all segregated, and non-whites were barred from participating in politics.

The consequences for South Africa’s non-white population were disastrous. The regulations frequently separated families (if parents were black and white, their children were classified as “colored”), and 3.5 million individuals were forcefully taken from their homes between 1961 and 1994. Non-whites were forced into extreme poverty and misery when their land was sold for a fraction of its value.

Why Did Apartheid Last That Long?

Apartheid lasted so long because the formal collapse of the apartheid administration in South Africa was a long and arduous process. Ending the government that permitted the country’s white minority to dominate the country’s Black majority took decades of agitation from both inside and outside the country, as well as worldwide economic pressure.

Apartheid was rejected by the United Nations in 1973, but when matters came to head in 1976 when police used tear gas and bullets against schoolchildren in Soweto. The violence sparked an outcry, prompting the United Nations to impose an arms embargo on South Africa, which was followed by economic penalties from the United Kingdom and the United States in 1985.

Outside pressure such as the United States and domestic protests ultimately pushed the South African presidents to end apartheid. He liberated Mandela by lifting the band on the ANC in 1990.

Those suspected of being in a racially mixed relationship were tracked down by the Immorality Acts of 1927 and 1950, and that discovered breaching apartheid might be imprisoned, fined, or lashed. A black man or woman discovered without their ‘dompas,’ a passport comprising fingerprints, a photograph, personal data of occupation, and official authorization to remain in a certain section of the country, might be imprisoned as well.

During the four-month-long Defiance movement, more than 8,000 volunteers defied apartheid rules by refusing to carry passes, breaking curfews, and accessing public spaces and amenities reserved for whites only. The campaign sparked a nationwide movement for liberation in South Africa and drew the attention of the United Nations.

The 1952 Defiance Campaign’s Volunteer-in-Chief was Nelson Mandela, President of the ANC Youth League. He went on to play a key role in mobilizing large-scale opposition against apartheid, and in 1961, he established the ANC’s notorious armed wing, ‘Umkhonto we Sizwe’ (Spear of the Nation).

Mandela was sentenced to 27 years in jail for his role in both peaceful and violent resistance, during which time he was exposed to horrible and cruel circumstances. His narrative became well-known throughout the world.


Apartheid was indeed the term given by the party to its policies of racial segregation, which drew on the country’s long history of racial segregation between the governing white community and the non – white community. Apartheid policy dictated where South Africans could live and work depending on their race, the sort of schooling they could obtain, whether they could vote, who they could associate with, and which segregated public facilities they could use during this time.

On April 26, 1994, almost 22 million South Africans voted in the country’s first multicultural legislative elections, electing Nelson Mandela as the country’s first black leader.


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