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*On this date in 1950, the Population Registration Act No 30 of 1950 began in South Africa; the beginning of South African Apartheid.
This law required people to be identified and registered from birth as one of four distinct racial groups: White, Colored, Bantu (Black African), and Other. It was one of the 'pillars' of Apartheid. Race was reflected in the individual's Identity Number.
The Act was typified by humiliating tests that determined race through perceived linguistic and/or physical characteristics. The wording of the Act was imprecise, but was applied with great enthusiasm. The South African Office for Race Classification was formed to supervise the classification process of the races. Superficial appearances, social standing and general acceptance were each evaluated which meant that reclassifications would be quite uncommon due to their social nature.
For example, a Black man was typically defined as a "Black man" and was accepted as a White or Colored man due to his dark appearance. Other examples were quite obvious such as hair color, facial features (nose and lip shape), the language spoken, acquaintances, friends, relatives, place of employment and overall social and economic status.
As the decades came to pass and due to external and internal social pressures forced on the South African government by other nations to get rid of the apartheid, the Population Registration Act of 1950 was finally repealed by the South African Parliament on June 17, 1991. South Africa's apartheid would end officially in 1994.
The Encyclopedia Britannica, Twenty-fourth Edition.
Copyright 1996, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.