Soweto, which is an acronym for South Western Townships, originated with the gold mines that sprang up in the region after 1886. Africans were drawn to work in the mines and were accommodated in separate areas on the outskirts of Johannesburg. After World War II when the Afrikaner-dominated National Party gained power and began to implement apartheid, the pace of forced removals and the creation of townships outside legally-designated white areas increased. Soweto came to the world’s attention on June 16, 1976 with the Soweto Uprising, when mass protests erupted over the government’s policy to enforce education in Afrikaans rather than English. The impact of the Soweto protests reverberated through the country and across the world and Soweto and other townships became the stage for violent state repression. Famous residents including Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu focused the world’s attention on and eventually were successful in overthrowing apartheid.
Today, Soweto is the the most populous black urban residential area in South Africa and is a center of African culture setting trends in politics, fashion, music, dance and language.