During the period of Apartheid in South Africa, which lasted from 1948 to 1994, racism was permitted and upheld by the laws and courts. The all-white government introduced this policy, which determined where people of other races were required to live. It also enforced the separation of public amenities like washrooms and discouraged contact between whites and the rest of the population. As the world continues the fight against racism, here are some lesser-known facts about Apartheid in South Africa.

1. The Apartheid Government was Testing a Bacteria that Could Kill Only Blacks

In 1998, Daan Goosen, the former head of South Africa’s biological weapons program, released a massive expose about the apartheid government in the country. He alleged that the government was testing a form of bacteria that would injure or kill black people while leaving the whites unharmed. The officer further disclosed that the information came from an unknown scientist at the South African Embassy in London.

2. Nelson Mandela Led South Africa Out of Apartheid

Nelson Mandela was among the frontline men who led South Africa out of the discriminatory social structure that had oppressed blacks for decades. Even after imprisonment, he continued to lead the resistance against Apartheid. He became the country’s first black president in 1994 after he was released from captivity.

3. There was a Pencil Test on Hair during Apartheid

People were subjected to a pencil test to determine race in South Africa. A pencil would be pushed into someone’s hair, and they would be asked to shake their head. If the pencil stayed intact, the person was considered to be black. Supposing the pencil didn’t slide out, they would be termed colored, and if it fell out, the person would be declared white.

4. Jimmy Carter’s Daughter was Arrested Twice at Apartheid Protests

Amy Carter, former President Jimmy’s youngest daughter, was arrested twice during apartheid protests while attending Brown University. Amy stood firm on politics during her teen years, specifically racial segregation.

5. Interracial Marriages Were Banned during Apartheid

In 1949, the parliament of South Africa enacted a ban on mixed marriages. This prohibition lasted until June 1985. During the apartheid era, marriages between people of different races were highly discouraged, something that the famous South African comedian Trevor Noah has been vocal about.

He narrates how he and his parents had to walk on separate sides of the street so that people wouldn’t know they were together. As it turns out, some people ignored these rules and would secretly have relations with people from other races.

6. John Lennon Paid Fines for Apartheid Protesters After Being Banned in South Africa in 1966

When the South African rugby team went to play in Scotland in 1970, a group of protesters interrupted the match, advocating for the end of Apartheid. Ninety-six were arrested and bailed out by Beatles singer John Lennon. Four years before that, the Beatles had been banned by the South African Broadcasting Corporation for the singer’s infamous Jesus Christ comments.

7. Filipinos were Considered Black in South Africa’s Apartheid

Because of the historical perception whites had of Filipinos, they considered them as black. As a result, they were segregated and asked to reside in the Bantustans, the home for black South Africans.

8. Apartheid in South Africa is Similar to Canada’s Reservation System

To begin with, both South Africa and Canada were British colonies. Interestingly, Apartheid in South Africa was primarily borrowed from Canada’s reservation system that was intended to segregate the Aboriginal people. Most of the laws enacted in South Africa’s Apartheid were the ones being used in Canada 10 years prior.

9. North Korea Was One of the Biggest Opponents of Apartheid in South Africa

Many publications show Cuba’s support in defeating Apartheid in South Africa, but very little is mentioned about the role North Korea played in the fight. North Korea didn’t just support the Africa National Congress, Mandela’s party, but it also trained South African guerilla fighters. The country also sent engineers, doctors, and advisors to help.

10. Two White Parents Gave Birth to a Black Woman in Apartheid South Africa

In an era where racial segregation was at an all-time high in South Africa, Sandra Laing was born black even though her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were white. This genetic throwback would have been okay in any part of the world.

Unfortunately, it happened in South Africa. Sandra experienced firsthand racial segregation. She eventually became more comfortable around blacks than she was with whites.

11. Apartheid was Created by Hendrik Verwoerd

Even though it was adopted by the National Party, the idea behind Apartheid was architected by Hendrik Verwoerd. Verwoerd was born in Amsterdam but moved to South Africa, where he was a professor. He was the brains behind Apartheid and was named minister of native affairs after the legislation was passed.

12. The Sharpeville Massacre Occurred During Apartheid

On March 21, 1960, about 7,000 South Africans marched to the police station in Sharpeville in Transvaal Province. Sixty-nine of them were killed in cold blood, thus earning the name the Sharpeville massacre. The protest was against Apartheid and oppression.

13. F.W Clerk was the First President to Apologize for Apartheid

Former presidents of South Africa, P.W. Botha, and Prime Minister Daniel Malan, actively supported Apartheid for reasons best known to him. F.W. De Clerk’s intervention created room for negotiation between apartheid supporters and resistors.

He repealed apartheid laws and legalized the ANC and other anti-apartheid political groups. F.W. De Clerk was also the first South African president to apologize for the effects of Apartheid.

14. Apartheid Was Declared a Crime Against Humanity by the U.N.

In 1973, the United Nations International Convention declared Apartheid a crime against humanity. As such, it became an international law that is forbidden for all states. It is categorized under the same group as slavery and genocide.

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Last Update: July 10, 2024