Apartheid, a South African policy of racial separation. The word is Afrikaans for "apartness," and it originated in the 1930's to describe the racial policies of the National Party, which was predominantly supported by Afrikaners (Boers). When the National Party won power in 1948 apartheid became government policy. The policy lasted until 1991, when the government repealed the laws that established apartheid. In 1992 in a national referendum, South Africa's white voters supported the ending of apartheid.

The official aim of apartheid was separate development of white and nonwhite peoples, each according to their own cultural traditions. Opponents of this policy asserted that its real purpose was to protect the supremacy of the white minority. Apartheid laws mandated segregation in such areas as housing and education. All nonwhites were denied political rights until 1984, when South Africa created a tricameral parliament to give Coloreds (persons of mixed race)and Asians (Indians) a voice in the government.

Many blacks were forced to live in rural, impoverished areas called Bantustans, or homelands. Some Bantustans were given independence, but foreign governments never recognized them as independent. The Bantustans were abolished in 1993, when South Africa adopted a new constitution that provided full political rights to blacks.