Pass Laws

In the 1950s, in an effort to institute racial segregation, the white-minority government enacted a set of laws that regulated and severely restricted the movement of black and coloured South Africans.

The Pass Laws Act of 1952 mandated that black South Africans over the age of fifteen carry an identity book called a passbook (or a dompass) at all times. The passbook contained information on its carrier: their photograph and fingerprints, their name and address, and details regarding their employment.

The Pass Laws made life exceedingly difficult for black South Africans. The laws required black South Africans to produce his or her pass at the request of any white person. Failure to produce a pass would oftentimes result in arrest and imprisonment. Instances of arbitrary harassment and intimidation were common. Many black South Africans were vocal in resisting the Pass Laws. Opposition began with peaceful protest or civil disobedience by destroying identification books. However, the passbook conflict quickly escalated. In March 1960, during Sharpeville Massacre 69 people killed and over 180 injured.

The pass laws were eventually repealed in the late 1980s.