Making a Voice: African Resistance to Segregation in South Africa

By Joyce F. Kirk | Go to book overview

2
Race, Class, Segregation,
and the 1883 Struggle
Over the Removal of the
"Native" Strangers' Location

Introduction

In 1883, the Port Elizabeth Town Council attempted to pass and implement the Native Strangers' Location Act.1 The purpose of this Act was to force the black population to move from the "native" Strangers' location to Reservoir, a new site that was further away from town. Africans understood that the forced move to Reservoir would drastically alter their status, specifically with regard to the customary rights to land at Strangers'. In the broader housing and property dispute between the Town Council and the African population, this was of major consequence. By the 1880s, because of its central location, the Strangers' settlement had become particularly important. Whereas Strangers' had originally been on the outskirts, now, as a result of urban growth, it blocked the expansion of the white business and residential districts.

During the 1880s, the Cape liberal tradition, the large permanent black population, and the emergent middle class, along with the evolution of the ideology of segregation, were factors that interacted to influence the struggle between the government and the black population. Ultimately these factors forced the government to alter its plans for relocation. Resistance slowed the process of segregation and contributed to a relative freedom from restrictive regulations for the black working and middle class. So although the Act was passed in 1883, it was never used to remove and segregate the black population because of the concerted resistance by black and white Cape liberals. This resistance led to the addition of two amendments that effectively crippled the legislation.

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