DK History: Decolonization
After 1945, European nations began to give up their colonies. In some places, power was handed back to local people peacefully. White South Africans refused to share power, creating a system of APARTHEID.
In 1960, the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan made a speech in South Africa, declaring that a “wind of change” was blowing through the African continent. He meant that the age of empires and colonies was coming to an end. Today only a few colonies or “overseas territories” still exist.
Apartheid is a word from the Afrikaans language that means “staying apart.” It was the South African government’s policy of racial separation from 1948 to 1994. White people, who made up only 14 percent of the population, refused to give the vote to black or Asian people. These peoples were denied basic rights and were not allowed to mix with the whites.
Black people were not permitted to live in areas reserved for whites. They were not even allowed to sit on the same benches. Many black people endured bad housing, poverty, and inadequate education. Black and white South Africans who protested against apartheid risked imprisonment or death.
The end of apartheid came in 1994, when Nelson Mandela won South Africa’s first democratic general election. This occasion marked the end of two centuries in which Europeans had attempted to rule the rest of the world. However, the newly independent nations of Africa still face many problems.