White Rights: What Apartheid South Africa Learned from the United States

Elizabeth Esch

Though widely regarded as the most racist regime on earth, the apartheid government in South Africa learned from policies and practices long extant in the United States. Before apartheid was institutionalized, South African social scientists, educators and politicians were among the most astute observers of racial segregation and white supremacy in the U.S. In this lunchtime lecture, Professor Esch shows how white South Africans studied U.S. history and mimicked its practices in implementing apartheid, from so-called anti-miscegenation laws to the pass-book and homeland systems.

Elizabeth Esch is assistant professor of History and American Studies at Barnard College, where she teaches classes on the history of the United States, race and empire. Her work has appeared in Souls: a Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society; Cabinet: a Quarterly Journal of Art and Culture; and Historical Materialism.