Website Review

South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy

African Studies Center and MATRIX at Michigan State University

South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy is an extensive website that chronicles South Africa’s struggle to end apartheid. Created by the African Studies Center, MATRIX: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Science, and the History department at Michigan State University, this website provides firsthand accounts from activists and others involved in the movement to end apartheid. This site is designed to provide high school and undergraduate students with primary sources and foundational information about South Africa’s multigenerational struggle to end apartheid and instate democracy. 

This website’s strength is its diversity of resources. The main hub of informational material is found under the “Units” tab. This section breaks down apartheid in South Africa into eight units, ranging from colonialism to the height of the movement in the 1980s and 90s as well as issues in the modern day. Each unit comprises of a multipage essay with hyperlinked key terms (which provide a definition or link to a biography when clicked on). In addition to the essay, each unit is accompanied by a “Resources” section, which includes essays, pictures, websites, films and videos, and links to topic-specific pages with more multimedia to explore. Other sections of South Africa include “Essays,” “Media,” and “Interviews.” “Essays” offers in-depth explanations on specific topics, such as the Truth Commissions, and have suggested multimedia resources attached. “Media” provides multimedia links relevant to 26 different topics concerned with apartheid and resistance, such as Nelson Mandela’s release from prison or women’s role in the protests. “Interviews” has over 40 hours of video footage and interviews about apartheid and the struggle against it, which allows students to gain a more personal perspective of these events. This could also be a fantastic opportunity for students to practice analyzing oral histories, and the nuances of firsthand accounts. There is also a specific page for teachers under the “For Educators” tab, which includes activity ideas, a glossary, maps, recommended films, suggested readings, and biographies of influential people during this time. 

While the website holds a lot of information, it can be tricky to navigate at times. For example, when a user clicks on a multimedia link, it is taken to a new page away from the original article. Because of this, some of the materials can be hard to find if one does not look closely. The most comprehensive site navigation can be found on its “Contents” page. While it is centered on a single country, this site can be applied to larger world history themes. South Africa’s struggle with apartheid can be applied to discussions around civil rights, decolonization, imperialism, and 20th century political and protest movements. Overall, South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy is a well-researched and thorough educational resource for both students and teachers to incorporate South African history into their study.  

Reviewed by Savannah Scott, George Mason University

How to Cite This Source

"South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy," in in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/south-africa-overcoming-apartheid-building-democracy [accessed February 25, 2024]
Trade Union graphic with the statement "Educate Consolidate Advance To Victory"
“This site is designed to provide high school and undergraduate students with primary sources and foundational information about South Africa’s multigenerational struggle to end apartheid and instate democracy.”