So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Apartheid: A Graphic Guide. Donald Woods

Written by Donald Woods, a white South African who was editor of the Daily Dispatch until he was forced into exile, Apartheid: A Graphic Guide is a great introduction to the history of Apartheid in South Africa. Woods is famous for his biography of Steve Biko which was made into the feature film Biko. While not a graphic novel, each page is illustrated with black and white drawings by Mike Bostock, mostly depictions of the major historical figures.

This book follows the complicated history of the region starting from the first contact with white Europeans. The first Dutch settlers are described, including their strange corruption of Calvinist beliefs that they used to deny the rights of the non-white population. Their transition into a separate group, Afrikaners, with a unique language and culture, is also detailed.

The conflicts with the British over diamond and gold mines, which culminate in the Boer War, are described, as well as the strange Anglo-Afrikaner white people collaboration that comes into existence after the war to suppress the non-whites of the area.

The history of black and non-white opposition to the infringements on their rights is also described. Their attempts at non-violent solutions, and the brutal massacres by the white government in response are presented.

The book is limited because, having been written 20 years ago, it doesn't portray the final ending of Apartheid and the aftermath. However, for someone trying to come to grips with how such a despicable policy existed into the late 20th century, this is a great place to start.

I found out that the British general Kitchener developed the first Concentration Camps during the Boer War to "concentrate" the Afrikaner women, children, and servants so he could burn and raze the farms that were the source of enemy supplies. Many thousands died in these camps from unsanitary conditions and overcrowding. Also, I learned that Ronald Reagan's policy of constructive engagement in the 1980's actually encouraged the white regime to continue in their doomed course of continued Apartheid. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the roots of racial discrimination.

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