Apartheid was a system of racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa from 1948 to 1991.  The disturbing goal was to institutionalize a separation between white European settlers and ethnically diverse natives and slave populations.  There was brutal, state sponsored violence to maintain “order”,  along with absurd pettiness meant to demean those without white class distinction.

People were separated into Black, White, Indian, and Colored by legal definition in South African law. The Colored group included people regarded as being of mixed descent, Asian and Malaysian.   Racial tests were primarily based on appearance — skin color, facial features, appearance of hair.  Most infamously, the “pencil test” decreed that if an individual could hold a pencil in their hair when they shook their head, they could not be classified as White.  Once designated, your racial group determined whether or not you could vote, where you could live, what job you could have, who you could marry, where your children were schooled, what court of justice ruled on disputes and even where you could use beaches, public transportation and toilets.

Nelson Mandela spent his young life fighting for the freedom of South Africa’s black and colored population from oppression imposed by the white minority government. He was imprisoned for 27 years.  Soon after release, he became the first president of South Africa in elections in which all the people could vote.