In the 1950s and 1960s, almost all African nations won independence. In South Africa, the struggle for freedom was different. South Africa had achieved self-rule from Britain in 1910. Self-rule, however, was limited to white settlers. Whites made up less than 15 percent of the population but controlled the government and the economy. The black majority was denied all political and economic rights in their own land. The white-minority government passed racial laws that severely restricted the black majority.
Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Klerk won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for their work to end apartheid.
In 1948, the government expanded the existing system of racial segregation, and created the policy known as apartheid, or the separation of the races. Under apartheid, all South Africans were registered by race: Black, White, Colored (people of mixed ancestry), Asian. Supporters of apartheid claimed it would allow each race to develop its own culture. In fact, the policy was designed to preserve white control over South Africa.
Under apartheid, blacks were treated like foreigners in their own land. By the early 1900's whites had seized rights to 87% of all land, including all of South Africa's huge mineral wealth. Whites held almost all the decent jobs. Although black workers were needed to work in factories, mines, and other jobs, they were paid less than whites for the same job.
Laws restricted where Black people could live and banned marriages between the races. Among the most hated were the Pass Laws enacted in 1952, which required all blacks to carry pass books at all times, wherever they went. Blacks schools received less funding than white schools. Low wages and inferior schooling condemned most blacks to poverty.