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Apartheid South Africa, like many nations, has a long history of racism, dating back to the arrival of the first European settlers to the continent in the 17th century.In the course of the last three centuries, the black majority populations were segregated and subjected to all forms of political and economic discrimination.
In 1944, Nelson Mandela and other young nationalists joined ranks to create what would become an influential wing of the resistance organization - the ANC Youth League.
The militant ideas of the Youth League quickly found support among the masses.
The Boers, however, viewed themselves as the rightful "settlers," and resented the British regime and its policies, particularly after slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833.
As frictions with the British intensified, the Boers left the colony for rural northern regions of Southern Africa, mainly the Transvaal and the Orange Free State - areas not yet colonized by the Europeans.
The Defiance Campaign marked the beginning of mass resistance to apartheid.
Black Africans broke the racist "pass laws" and Indian, Colored and White volunteers entered Black townships without official permission.
From its inception, the ANC was dedicated to ending apartheid, initially following a cautious approach of appeals to Britain to recognize African rights.
However, decades of racism and violent attacks on Blacks resulted in a surge of extreme African nationalism, propelling the ANC toward a militant program to achieve its aims.
The South Africa Act also institutionalized long-standing, but unofficial policies of racial segregation and the domination of the Black majority and other ethnic groups through the creation of an all White government, and called for the repression of South African Blacks in every conceivable form.
The Institutionalization of Apartheid Over the following decades, successive laws widened the gulf between the black majority and white minority, making South Africa one of the most brutally repressive regimes of this century.
These laws and others determined where Blacks and other ethnic minorities could live and work; who they could marry, what levels of education they could obtain, and so on.