Africa at Noon on October 5, 2016

A Visual History of South African Apartheid Through American Eyes: Margaret Bourke-White, 1950

Alex Lichtenstein
Associate Professor, Department of History
Indiana University

Time and Location

12:00pm, 206 Ingra­ham Hall, 1155 Obser­va­tory Drive, Madi­son, WI


In 1950, LIFE magazine sent renowned photographer Margaret Bourke-White to South Africa to cover that country’s increasing racial polarization. While there, Bourke-White gained unprecedented access to the country’s gold mines, prison farms, and burgeoning shantytowns and exposed to American eyes for the first time the emerging cruel system of racial control that would define South Africa for the next half century, apartheid. Alex Lichtenstein’s new book, Margaret Bourke-White and the Dawn of Apartheid reproduces many of these images for the first time, and explains their impact.


Alex Lichtenstein is a Professor of History at Indiana University, where he teaches U.S. and South African history. His research focuses on the intersection of labor history and the struggle for racial justice in societies shaped by white supremacy. His articles on prison history, US labor and civil rights activism, and South African trade unions have appeared in Labor, Journal of African History, Journal of Southern African Studies, Journal of Southern African History, Journal of Peasant Studies, International Review of Social History, and LA Review of Books. He is writing a history of South African labor organizing and the state under apartheid, tentatively entitled Making Apartheid Work: Industrial Relations and the South African State, 1948-1994.