How did the people of South Africa overcome apartheid?
Fifth edition. December 2019.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. Preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS.

Freedom in Our Lifetime: South Africa’s Struggle explores the dilemma faced by black South Africans in the early 1960s of how best to battle the racial discrimination imposed by the apartheid system. Readings, lessons, and videos prepare students to consider thoughtfully the complexities of South African society. Students explore the history of South Africa and the development of a race-based society, the effects of apartheid on individuals, the challenges to the system of apartheid, and the end of apartheid and South Africa’s transition to a democratic, multi-racial society. The unit is divided into three parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills (including at least one that focuses on building geographic literacy) and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as the key lesson and additional synthesis lessons that allow students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to pick and choose what suits your classroom needs.

“This unit gives students a great opportunity to place themselves in the ‘moment of decision’ during the turn towards violent action against the apartheid state. It contextualizes the moment but also provides great perspectives that textbooks and many academic books (which are hard for kids to navigate) don’t include.” – Taylor, History Teacher, Spain

Part I: Precolonial and Colonial South Africa

Part I traces the early history of South Africa, providing background on the peoples of the region and on the development of a segregated society. There is one lesson aligned with Part I: Colonial South Africa: Moshoeshoe, the Boers, and the British.

Part II: Apartheid and Its Opposition

Part II explores the responses to apartheid by whites, Blacks, coloureds, and Asians in South Africa as well as the international community. There is one lesson aligned with Part II: Poetry and Politics.

Part III: Becoming South Africa

Part III explains the outcome of the 1961 debate. There is one lesson aligned with Part III: Violence as Protest.


Colonial South Africa

By examining a series of letters from a Sotho king to the British government in South Africa, students consider the consequences of the Boers' Great Trek on one African society.

Poetry and Politics

Students explore the relationship between political events and literature through close readings of 1950s poetry from South Africa.

Role-Playing the Three Options

The Options Role Play is the key lesson in the unit. Students work cooperatively using primary sources to present the three options that anti-apartheid groups debated at the time.

Violence as Protest

Students analyze the effectiveness of the use of violence to oppose apartheid, consider the morality of armed struggle, and clarify their own views on the use of violence as a means to an end.

The Soweto Uprising Through Primary Sources

Synthesis Lesson: Students explore the Soweto student uprisings of 1976 through testimony given at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.

Steve Biko and Black Consciousness

Synthesis Lesson: Students interpret the writings of Steve Biko and consider the effects of apartheid on people's minds.

Synthesis Lesson: Students hear firsthand from a South African anti-apartheid activist and how she worked to achieve justice and equality.

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