Apartheid (“apartness” in the language of Afrikaans) was a system of legislation that upheld segregationist policies against nonwhite citizens of South Africa. After the National Party gained power in South Africa in 1948, its all-white government immediately began enforcing existing policies of racial segregation. Under apartheid, nonwhite South Africans (a majority of the population) were forced to live in separate areas from whites and use separate public facilities. Contact between the two groups was limited, and the violence used to maintain this system was extreme.

Despite strong and consistent opposition to apartheid within and outside of South Africa, its laws remained in effect for the better part of 50 years. In 1991, the government of President F.W. de Klerk began to repeal most of the legislation that provided the basis for apartheid. President de Klerk and activist Nelson Mandela would later win the Nobel Peace Prize for their work creating a new constitution for South Africa. In 1995, President Nelson Mandela appointed Archbishop Desmond Tutu to be head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated allegations of human rights abuses of the previous 34 years. As always, the archbishop focused on forgiveness and cooperation rather than revenge for past injustice.

In this lesson, students will learn about different approaches to achieving justice and advancing a peaceful resolution to conflict. After students gather background information by reading the interview with Archbishop Tutu from “Speak Truth To Power,” they’ll take part in activities that are based in the International Human Rights Framework. Starting a peer mediation club or civic engagement group are just a few examples included in the lesson plan of how students can become human rights defenders in their community.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an anti-apartheid leader, standing at the heart of a movement for truth and reconciliation, for progress and peace. Tutu is a champion of racial justice for South Africans and equality for us all.

Because all the activities involve independent or group research that can be done online, this lesson plan fits into either virtual or in-person classrooms, with opportunities for discussion and collaboration on Zoom or with classmates. This lesson will be an excellent complement to Speak Truth to Power lessons for Nelson Mandela, F.W. de Klerk, and John Lewis.