Texts about apartheid

In this section, you can find an index of texts that may be useful when working with apartheid.

Speeches about apartheid

I Am Prepared to Die

Nelson Mandela’s defense speech from the Rivonia Trial, popularly known as “I Am Prepared to Die”, is a powerful accusation against the injustice of the apartheid government. Mandela uses the speech to justify the use of force, explaining why he and his fellow activists felt the need to resort to violence when their non-violent protests repeatedly went unheard. In the famous conclusion to the speech, Mandela states that he is fully prepared to die for his cause.  

Nelson Mandela's Inaugural Speech

If you are working with the end of apartheid, it may be very useful to bring up this speech, which Nelson Mandela made after he was elected President. It is an uplifting expression of hope for the future of South Africa, though also a warning that the process is not over and that there is still hardship to come.

Short stories about apartheid

The Bench by Richard Rive

This short story is about a black South African who decides to protest against the apartheid system by sitting on a bench reserved for whites only. This quiet act of protest lead to a gathering of people who start to discuss whether the man’s actions are justified or not. He is eventually arrested, but feels satisfied that he has made a difference and called attention to the issue of discrimination.

Country Lovers

This short story describes an illegal interracial relationship in South Africa, resulting in the birth of a mixed-race child. Unable to deal with this situation, the child’s white father is so desperate that he kills his own child to remove the evidence of the affair.

The Moment Before the Gun Went Off

This short story touches upon the laws that prohibited relationships between people of different ethnicities. Though the text is at first about an incident in which a white man shoots a black boy by accident, it is later revealed that the truth of the boy’s origins is more complex than it first appears.

Once upon a Time

This short story may be viewed as a criticism of the Group Areas Act and similar segregation policies, as Gordimer tells the story of a rich white family who go to extreme lengths to protects their home and their child from non-white people in their area with walls, barbed wire and other security measures. In the end, this has tragic consequences for the family itself, as their own child is killed by the barbed wire surrounding their home.

Pink by Judith Thompson

This dramatic monologue is narrated by a white child living under the apartheid system, who describes her relationship with her black nanny, who was shot while protesting against apartheid. The narrator has trouble dealing with her conflicting emotions about this event. Eventually we get signs that she is starting to realise that the apartheid system is unjust, despite having been raised with its racist teachings.

The Toilet by Gcina Mhlope

This short story focuses on a young South African woman struggling to find identity and purpose while living under the injustices of the apartheid regime. Throughout the story we see several examples of the difficult living conditions of black South Africans, such as the often poor housing situation, the low quality of available jobs and the continual need to obey the rules of white people in their everyday lives.

Other texts

Below are further suggestions for texts or movies that may be relevant when working with apartheid. We do not currently have study guides for these texts, but maybe you can be inspired to look for some of these titles yourself. 

Attenborough, Richard - Cry Freedom (movie)

August, Bille - Goodbye Bafana/The Color of Freedom (movie)

Brink, André - A Dry White Season (novel)

de Klerk, F.W. - "Nobel Lecture" (speech)

Gordimer, Nadine - My Son's Story (novel)

Jooste, Pamela - Dance With a Poor Man's Daughter (novel)

Mandela, Nelson - Long Walk to Freedom (biography)

Mandela, Nelson - "Nobel Lecture" (speech)

Noah, Trevor - Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (autobiography)

Reagan, Ronald - "Talk by Reagan on South Africa and Apartheid" (speech)