The treatment of Black Africans in South Africa in the 1930s and 1940s

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Last updated: November 10, 2019

This assignment will describe how black South Africans were treated in the 1930s and 1940s before the system of apartheid begun in 1948. In this assignment I will describe come ways in which the life for the blacks became worse during this period of time. In 1910 the four colonies of South Africa these were Natal, The Transvaal, Cape Colony and the Orange Free State had joined up to make self governing dominion called the Union of South Africa.

The colonies had different beliefs about political rights.Mainly the Afrikaner Orange Free State and The Transvaal had no voting rights at all. In Natal some blacks could vote in elections but the rules were so complicated. In Cape Colony however things were different any man who owned 50 a year or had a property worth 70 or more had a right to vote. These were clear differences in the treatment of blacks at the turn of this century. Towards the ends of the 19th century a new educated middle class of blacks emerged some of these were traders, clerks, interpreters and priests.Most of these people were usually educated in mission schools, which were set up especially for coloured people such as blacks. No whites were allowed to come into these mission schools however many of these blacks were wealthy enough to vote in Cape, and so they did vote.

There weren’t many of these wealthy blacks but there was enough to make some white candidates in Cape elections take note of the blacks needs. Many poor blacks wanted a job, so they became sharecroppers, which meant they farmed a piece of land, which belonged to a white farmer and paid a bit of rent in the form of sharing their crops.Many blacks liked this as it gave them more freedom and if there were successful it enabled them to have their farming equipments and small herds. However the Land Act of 1913 stopped the blacks from buying land from the whites. Things became worse for the blacks because they could only own the land that was in native reserves, which amounted them to only 7% of South Africa.

The Land Act also said that blacks were not allowed to live on white farms only if they wanted to live as full-time labourers. This meant that sharecropping became illegal.This caused problems and great sufferings to many of the black families. This left them to only one option, which was to work as servants or labourers to the white families.

During World War 1 the gold prices in South Africa rose and since goods became much harder to get, local clothing and engineering manufactures did well. The mining companies were short of men to meet the new demands and so they began to employ blacks in semi-skilled jobs, which had been previously done by whites only. Also however during the 1920s the number of poor blacks increases.The government improved the situation for whites by making most of the jobs which were done by blacks for whites only, for example the railway works had been changed to whites only.

As far as the government were concerned they said that the unemployed black workers could return to their homes in the rural areas. The reality for blacks was increasing poverty, hardship and also starvation. Lastly in 1924 a colour bar was enforced. This colour bar meant that good jobs were reserved for whites only. In the 1930s more and more blacks had moved in large groups into the towns and cities.In 1904 10% of blacks were town dwellers and in 1936 it increased to 19%. This meant that lots of blacks were moving into one area so the city councils started to build municipal townships, which meant that only a small proportion of blacks were housed.

These municipal townships were sited where the blacks did not wish to live and also the land, which the whites did not want, was given to blacks. The whites gave this land to the blacks because there was nearby rubbish tips and those sites were really dirty and also next to sewage farms. Many blacks lived in urban slum yards.All male migrant workers continued to be housed in compounds and hostels.

Al large number of blacks worked for the whites as being servants whilst the other female survived as prostitution or the illegal brewing of alcohol. They did this because so they can earn their own kind of money. In 1939 the situation still got worse. The average of blacks was 10% worse because of prices had gone up but the wages stayed the same.

Comparing the blacks to the whites, the whites were 10% better off. Life still gets worse for the blacks as the government promotes racial segregation.Between the years of 1910 to 1939, most whites believed that the different races should be kept apart from the whites.

In 1937 a law was set up to limit the amount of blacks that could live in an urban area in anytime. This meant that blacks had to live in the rural areas. That law was called Native Laws Amendment Act.

This law was backed up by a Pass Law, which meant that Polices were strictly controlling the movement of blacks and where they lived. In 1936 the government went further when it reduced the very limited political rights remaining to blacks in the Cape Province.After these things got even worse, blacks were no longer allowed to vote in the national and provincial elections. Only in the future they could only vote for their own Member of Parliament and provincial councillors but however these members would be white.

The blacks had nothing to do except for protesting as a result of the new Acts and Laws, but while the blacks were protesting the government got angry and banned political meetings. The police were also annoyed so they acted forcefully against strikers and political demonstrations done by the blacks.However some improvements were made during World War 2. One of the improvements was the blacks been given an opportunity to fight for the war but they weren’t allowed and weren’t trusted with arms such as guns and knives.

125,000 blacks joined the 2,000 white volunteers to fight, be drivers, labourers and servants. As the manufacturing industry was again cut off from European supplies due to World War 1, it still began to cut off. Also the miners and factories were working flat out and many men were at War, so the employers employed more and more black men into semi-skilled jobs.In 1941 Americas president, Franklin Roosevelt and Britain’s president, Winston Churchill, met and produced the Atlantic Charter.

This charter said that that the allies were fighting the war to save freedom, democracy and peace from Hitler’s tyrannical dictatorship. Black South Africans who fought in Africa and Europe knew about the charter and what the charter said, also blacks within South Africa also read about it, and as the war came to a finish, their hopes for a greater freedom and democracy within South Africa rose.In 1943 the blacks that were the most active from the African National Congress published Africans’ claims.

This claim was to show how determined it was to achieve democracy, freedom and equality for all races, above all there should be no advantages or disadvantages based on any race, but this the government ignored. To conclude I have found out that after World War 2 some improvements were made for the blacks such as the blacks having their own land.But overall the main treatment was the blacks having a bit of land and giving them some freedom. The blacks were not allowed to vote, which meant that they couldn’t have their say and they didn’t have their sense of pride and they couldn’t move freely as they were controlled by the government. Also they weren’t allowed to live where they wanted, which ended up with the blacks having poor sewage, dirty places to live. From all this we saw the beginning of the apartheid system and how they were treated.

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