Why South Africa is still so segregated

How centuries of division built one of the most unequal countries on earth.

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For decades, South Africa was under apartheid: a series of laws that divided people by race. Then, in the 1990s, those laws were dismantled. But many of the barriers they created continue to divide South Africans by skin color – which in turn determines their quality of life, access to jobs, and wealth. Racial division was built into the fabric of cities throughout South Africa, and it still hasn’t been uprooted.

That’s partly because, while apartheid was the culmination of South Africa’s racial divisions, it wasn’t the beginning of them. That story starts closer to the 1800s, when the British built a network of railroads that transformed the region’s economy into one that excluded most Black people — and then made that exclusion the law.

Sources and further reading:

If you want to learn more about the railroads and how they impacted Cape Colony’s economy, check out this paper by Johan Fourie and Alonso Herranz Loncan:
https://academic.oup.com/ereh/article-abstract/22/1/73/3930943?redirectedFrom=fulltext

To understand segregation in South Africa’s major urban centers, take a look at this paper about segregation and inequality:
https://www.seri-sa.org/images/SERI_Edged_out_report_Final.pdf

For more information on post-Apartheid cities, you can read this paper by Edgar Pieterse (who we feature in the video):
https://www.africancentreforcities.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/post-apartheid_geographies_pieterse_15dec09.pdf

To explore the history and legacy of District Six, visit the District Six Museum website:

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