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Apartheid Timeline

1652 - Dutch settlers (or Boers) arrive in Cape Town and set up a colony governed by the Dutch East India Company. Over the next 150 years, they periodically import slaves from other parts of Africa. In 1760, the first pass laws are enacted, forcing slaves to carry passbooks signed by their owners when traveling from town to town. Meantime, the Dutch had begun trekking north and east (hence the name "Trek Boers") in the late 1600's. By the end of the 1700's, they've engaged in warfare the Khoikhoi people and two frontier wars with the Xhosa people.

1795 - The British seize Cape Town, eventually fighting with the Xhosa themselves.

1809 - Cape government enacts pass laws for "hottentot" (i.e. black) laborers. Pass laws of one kind or another continue almost until the end of apartheid.

August 1834 - Britain officially abolishes slavery in all of its colonies. The abolition is delayed in South Africa by four months.

1910 - The Union of South Africa is established as a self-governing entity still housed within the British Commonwealth.

1911 - The Union of South Africa passes the Native Labor Regulation Act, barring Africans, but not whites, from breaking labor contracts. This same year it institutes the Dutch Reformed Church Act, banning blacks from becoming official church members, and the Mines and Works Act which reserved all skilled mining jobs for whites.

1912 - The South African Native National Congress is born. Its mission is to unite African people against racism and oppression.

1914 - South Africa's National Party is founded.

1913 - The Union of South Africa passes the Natives Land Act, slicing up the nation into different sections where either blacks or whites, but not both, could own land. Blacks, who make up two-thirds of the population, are given 7.5 percent of the land. Whites, who make up one-fifth of the population, are given 92.5 percent of the land.

July 18, 1918 - Nelson Mandela is born (as Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela) on the Eastern Cape.

1923 - South Africa passes the Natives Urban Areas Act, authorizing urban segregation. The South African Native National Congress changes its name to the African National Congress, or ANC.

1925 - Afrikaans is made South Africa's second official language, alongside English.

1929 - The National Party wins control of the country in a national election.

1931 - Britain allows South Africa's parliament to act autonomously.

1934 - South Africa's parliament institutes the Status of Union Act, declaring South Africa a sovereign nation. South Africa's United Party wrests control from the National Party in another election. During this decade, the United Party removes blacks on the Cape from the voter rolls and expands the amount of land they're allowed to own to 13 percent. It also imposes stricter passbook rules and generally affirms its policy of segregation.

1940 - Nelson Mandela moves to Johannesburg to avoid an arranged marriage. There, he meets ANC member Walter Sisulu who helps him get a job at a law firm. Over the next few years, Mandela finishes his Bachelor's degree, enrolls in law school and joins the ANC.

1944 - Mandela, Sisulu and Oliver Tambo form the ANC Youth League, saying that the ANC leadership isn't active enough.

1948 - The National Party takes control of the country once again in another election - this time on a platform of apartheid (translated to mean "separateness" or "apartness"). It's the first time the term is used. Later that year, the government ends military training for blacks.

1949 - The National Party ratifies The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act - which pretty much means what it says. The ANC adopts the ANC Youth League's "Programme of Action" which is "inspired by the desire to achieve national freedom… freedom from White domination and the attainment of political independence." The plan calls for mass protest activity and passive resistance.

1950 - The Population Registration Act is passed, requiring all South Africans to be registered as white, black, colored or native (later to be termed Bantu). Indians are classified as Asian. A lot of this classification was based on looks. Everyone is now required to carry an identity card stating their race. The Group Areas Act forces each race to live in separate areas. The Immorality Act forbids whites and non-whites from having sex with each other. The Suppression of Communism Act forbids any anti-apartheid activity.

1951 - The Separate Representation of Voters Act places voters of different races onto separate rolls. Later that year, the ANC petitions the government, wanting parliamentary representation and, generally, calling for the end of apartheid. Meantime, the United Nations tells South Africa that the South-Western portion of the country should be independent. South Africa stops taking part in the UN general assembly. Nelson Mandela becomes president of the ANC Youth League.

1952 - The ANC launches a huge passive resistance campaign called the Defiance Campaign. Eight thousand protesters are arrested. Interracial violence erupts. Mandela is charged with violating the "Suppression of Communism Act." He's given a suspended sentence and barred from going to any meetings or gatherings for the next two years. He and Oliver Tambo open a law practice together in order to represent blacks who are brought up on anti-apartheid charges.

1953 - The government passes the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act, meaning whites and non-whites are to have separate toilets, parks, beaches etc. It also ratifies the Bantu Education Act which meant separate, sub-standard education facilities for blacks.

1958 - Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, architect of a lot of the apartheid legislation, becomes prime minister.

1959 - Parliament ratifies the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act which creates ten separate "Bantu" homelands with the idea that each will be self-governed and move toward independence. Racial violence erupts in Durban and lasts for months.

March 21, 1960 - Anti-apartheid activists gather in the township of Sharpeville, to protest against the pass laws. Police open fire on them killing 69 people, including eight women and ten children. Some 705 rounds were fired in less than one minute. Later that year, the National Party government declares a state of emergency and renders the ANC illegal. Mandela is arrested. Oliver Tambo goes into exile but continues to work for the ANC.

1961 - South Africa becomes an independent republic, no longer linked to the British Commonwealth. The ANC decides passive resistance isn't working and promotes an armed struggle. The policy is to target governmental offices and symbols of apartheid, not actual people. The new military wing is called Umkhonto we Sizwe (or Spear of the Nation). Mandela somehow makes it out of the country and goes traveling around Africa and Europe, learning about guerilla warfare. For the month of May, the police carry out continuous raids, arresting eight thousand people. The UN general assembly says it's not going to recognize South Africa.

1962 - On his way back into South Africa, Mandela gets arrested. He's convicted and sentenced to five years on Robben Island, a prison on the Cape.

1963 - While he's in jail, Mandela is tried again, with several other ANC leaders, for sabotage and attempting to violently overthrow the government. This is the famous Rivonia Trial. While they were prepared to die for their cause, the judge spares their lives and sentences them to life in prison.

1966 - John Vorster becomes prime minister after Hendrik Verwoerd is assassinated by a white farmer.

1970 - The Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act assigns all blacks to one of the ten "Bantu homelands" created in 1959. The idea was that the homelands would become independent and that blacks would cease to be South African citizens. Only four of the homelands chose independence. Still, more than three million black people are forcibly resettled.

1975 - The first television signals are broadcast in South Africa.

June 16, 1976 - A group of students gathers in Soweto, the South Western Township where blacks were forced to live during apartheid, to protest mandatory instruction in Afrikaans. Police fire on the crowd, killing 12-year-old Hector Pieterson and 15-year-old Hastings Ndlovu. Violence erupts across the township. Over the next eight months, the government will kill some 575 protestors, a quarter of whom are younger than 18. (Sechaba "Chabi" Mogale - now co-owner of the multi-million dollar, kwaito-influenced fashion label Loxion Kulcha - is born on this day.)

September 1977 - Anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko is killed in police captivity. Thousands of people attend his funeral. (Earlier this same year, Bonginkosi "Zola" Dlamini, now one of the most famous kwaito performers in the country, is born.)

1978 - John Vorster resigns amid corruption scandal. P.W. Botha becomes prime minister.

1983 - P.W. Botha proposes that Coloreds and Indians, but not blacks, have representation in government, with each race having its own separate house of parliament. Parliament approves the measure. Many blacks in the southern townships are angry at having been excluded and begin protests that spread across the country, leading to a brutal police crackdown.

1984 - Bishop Desmond Tutu is awarded the Nobel Peace prize. Botha is made state president and the new "tricameral parliament" is established. The Umkhonto we Sizwe (or MK) resistance ramps up and becomes more violent. MK guerrillas kill farmers, policemen and people accused of collaborating with oppressors. Forty American companies pull out of South Africa.

March 21, 1985 - Seventeen people are gunned down in the township of Langa while commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre. Botha issues the first in what will be a series of several states of emergency due to unrest several parts of the country. In the summer of this year, anti-apartheid rallies are held in New York City, Atlanta and Washington. This is also the year that fifty-four American pop artists, calling themselves "Artists United Against Apartheid" released the track "Sun City," which includes the lyric "Relocation to phony homelands / Separation of families I can't understand / Twenty-three million can't vote because they're black / We're stabbing our brothers and sisters in the back." The song was nominated for a Grammy award and raised more than one million dollars for the anti-apartheid cause. Meantime, P.W. Botha offers to release Nelson Mandela if he renounces violence. Mandela refuses.

1986 - Botha opens the parliament session in January with the surprising statement that the nation has "outgrown the outdated concept of apartheid." Parliament repeals the pass laws and the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act. Mandela begins secret negotiations with the South African government. The United States Congress overrides a presidential veto to impose mandatory sanctions against South Africa.

1989 - Botha suffers a stroke. F.W. de Klerk becomes president and releases most of the Rivonia trial prisoners including Walter Sisulu. He also repeals the Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act and holds initial meetings with Mandela.

February 2, 1990 - De Klerk announces that he is lifting the ban on the ANC. On February 11, Nelson Mandela is released from prison after twenty-seven years. He is later named deputy president of the ANC. In August, the government and the ANC both sign the Pretoria Minute, agreeing to end the armed struggle. In October, parliament repeals the Separation of Amenities Act.

1991 - Mandela is elected ANC president in July, the same month that the United States lifts its sanctions South Africa. This is after the South African government repeals the Land Act of 1913, the Group Areas Act and the Population of Separate Amenities Act. In September, the government and the ANC sign the National Peace Accord, beginning the first formal negotiations in December. The talks break down and don't start up again for another five months.

1992 - Violence rages on in the townships, police and residents fighting each other. Mandela and de Klerk begin negotiations again in May and, again, hit a stalemate. But both sides agree to continue working toward democracy. Eventually they sign the Record of Understanding.

1993 - Negotiations continue. Chris Hani, a young ANC leader, is killed by a white supremacist. Mandela goes on TV to try to stem retaliatory violence and largely succeeds. In July, both Mandela and de Klerk receive a Liberty Medal. In December, they are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the same month that a new South African constitution is ratified.

1994 - Nelson Mandela becomes president in the nation's first all-race democratic election. He is inaugurated on May 10 flanked by his two deputy presidents, former ANC chairman Thabo Mbeki and former president F.W. de Klerk.

1995 - Mandela says he will not run for re-election. He also claims responsibility for the 1994 Shell House shootings of Inkatha Freedom Party members. IFP was a rival, black African political party that, it turned out, had been funded in party by the South African government toward the end of the struggle.

1996 - The Truth And Reconciliation Commission begins hearings with Archbishop Desmond Tutu as chairman. In its investigation of apartheid era crimes, the commission is broken up into three committees: Human rights violations, Reparations and Amnesty. Ultimately, the Commission determines that the South African government perpetrated "gross violations of human rights" between 1960 and 1994. It also holds the ANC accountable for "gross violations of human rights in the course of [its] political activities and armed struggles."

1997 - At 79, Nelson Mandela steps down as the head of the ANC. He is succeeded by Deputy President Thabo Mbeki.

1999 - Thabo Mbeki wins South Africa's second-ever, all-race, democratic election.

August 2004 - South Africa's New National Party (formerly the National Party), which instituted and presided over apartheid, votes to disband. Members are invited to affiliate with the African National Congress.

January 2005 - Nelson Mandela announces that his son Makgatho has died of AIDS in a Johannesburg clinic.

April 2005 - The New National party officially ceases to exist.

Sources: African National Congress, anti-slaverysociety.addr.com, BBC News, Frontline: The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela, The Library of Congress, raceandhistory.com, sahistory.org.za, songfacts.com, The New York Times.