On this day in 1994, South Africa held its first post-apartheid elections. To commemorate the day and celebrate freedom, the day is a public holiday.
Apartheid was a formal system of segregation and discrimination along racial lines. Ironically, on this very date in 1950 the Group Areas Act was passed, formally setting up apartheid.
(Segregation and discrimination had been occurring before this time, of course, but this act made it the law of the land and allowed forcible removal of “blacks,” “coloured,” and “Indians” to achieve segregation.)
Under the apartheid regime, non-whites had only limited rights to vote, but in the 1994 election, everyone of voting age (over 18) from any racial group was allowed to vote. Nelson Mandela, a black man who had been imprisoned for 27 years for resistance to apartheid, was elected president.
ALSO ON THIS DAY:
April 27, 1927, Coretta Scott was born. She grew up to marry Martin Luther King, Jr., and of course was widowed in 1968.
Before and particularly after her husband's assassination, Coretta Scott King was active in the civil rights movement in the United States. She dedicated time and energy, not only to ending racial segregation and discrimination, but also to rights for women, world peace, equality for people of all sexual orientations, and opposition to apartheid.
Scott King participated in protests against the South African apartheid regime and urged U.S. president Ronald Reagan to approve economic sanctions against the government in an effort to end the regime. She also traveled to South Africa to meet with Winnie Mandela, wife of then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela.
Scott King died in 2007.
Learn more about Nelson Mandela, Coretta Scott King, and South Africa.
- Watch the movie Invictus. This excellent movie stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon and concerns Nelson Mandela's efforts to unite South Africa after years of violence and segregation. It's both heartwarming and inspiring. We don't see the violence and injustice that preceded the events in the film; instead, we are offered visions of forgiveness, growing understanding, and sport. (The film is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.)
- Read The Day Gogo Went to Vote, by E. B. Sisulu. (Gogo means “grandmother” in Xhosa and Zulu.)
- Explore the photos and facts about South Africa available on Kids' National Geographic.
- Listen to an interview (well, a chunk of an interview) with Coretta Scott King.
“Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated. “ – Scott King
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Mandela
“I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'" – Scott King
“It always seems impossible until its done.” – Mandela