Apartheid literally means "apartness" in Afrikaans. It was a policy of institutionalised segregation made into law in 1948 when the Afrikaaner National Party were governing South Africa. The laws were to the distinct detriment of the black population of the country.
South Africans were classified into different races by the apartheid government, and were given and denied rights according to these classifications. White people were afforded the most rights and privileges. Black people were denied basic human rights and often had their civil rights impinged upon.
The black population did not have freedom of movement, and were forced to carry passes - similar to an internal passport - at all times until the law was finally repealed in 1986.
'Black', 'Indian' and 'coloured' (mixed heritage) people were disenfranchised and forced to live in separate residential areas. Blacks were also not allowed to own land. They were forced to live in 'homelands' - areas demarcated by the apartheid government and considered outside of South Africa.
The imposed segregation led to the formation of the anti-apartheid movement, which fought against the racially segregated South African State. After more than half-a-century of struggling, apartheid ended and, in 1994, a new constitution was ratified and the country had its first democratic elections.
The movement gave rise to many famous humanitarians who made it their life's mission to fight the oppression. Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Oliver Thambo and Steve Biko all gained recognition as they were instrumental in the forging of South African democracy.
During the 1980's, a protester stood outside the South African High Commission in London, as a sign of opposition to the apartheid government of South Africa.