This day in historyOn Nov. 6, 1962, the United Nations passed a special resolution that condemned the racist practice of apartheid in South Africa. The resolution demanded that all United Nations member countries halt their military and economic ties with South Africa.

The South African government implemented apartheid from 1948 to 1993. Apartheid is an Afrikaans word that means "apartness" in English. Apartheid involved a government-enforced system by which the country's inhabitants were segregated economically, racially and politically based on the color of their skin. Blacks were contained in special areas and they were not permitted to visit white areas without a pass. White landowners possessed the majority of South Africa's land and the majority of its economic wealth.

Anti-Apartheid Movement Grows After Violent Massacre

In 1960, the South African government carried out a violent massacre against unarmed protesters in the township of Sharpeville, located close to Johannesburg. The incident left 69 black South Africans dead and more than 180 injured. Following the massacre, the violent nature and injustice of Apartheid gained international attention.

After the Nov. 6, 1962, embargo, the anti-apartheid movement steadily gained momentum. In 1973, another United Nations resolution identified apartheid as a crime against humanity. The following year, the U.N. suspended South Africa from membership in its General Assembly.

By 1990, decades of sanctions, strikes and violent demonstrations had resulted in the repeal of many apartheid laws. Then, in 1991, South Africa rewrote its constitution and completely dismantled the apartheid system. In 1994, the country held free, unbiased elections. A black political activist, who had spent 27 years of his life in prison during apartheid, became the country's first post-apartheid president. That man was the famous bastion of human rights, Nelson Mandela.

South Africa Heals in the Years That Follow

In the years that followed the end of apartheid, perhaps the most interesting thing about South Africa's transformation was its non-violent edge. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created to heal the people of South Africa from the violence and horror of apartheid. Instead of punishing the architects and enforcers of apartheid for their inhumane acts, they were allowed to offer up their confessions in exchange for amnesty. In 2003, the South African government made financial reparations to apartheid victims based on recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.