“It’s just hair”-The Pencil Test

by kcurly on February 3, 2009

in "It's just hair"

I’ll be starting a new category on this blog called “It’s just hair” to point out that it’s not just hair. Kinky, tightly curled hair is a big deal to a lot of people and I aim to find as many examples of that as I can. Here’s the first of ( I hope ) many.

Think “it’s just hair”? Check out this little piece of history from South Africa.

Unlike the United States, South Africa did not consider one drop of African blood enough to make one “black”. With the implementation of the Population Registration Act of 1950 as a part of apartheid, people were classified as either white, black, or, a new group, “coloured”. If there were a question of race, the Pencil test was employed.

The Pencil Test involved taking a pencil and sticking it through the questionable person’s hair. If it got stuck, the person was considered “coloured”. If it fell, they were considered white. (Sometimes there would be exceptions to this if there were other evidence)

With this test, families were torn apart and the new “coloureds” were given special priveleges that blacks did not have including better schooling, housing, jobs. The sad thing is the “coloureds” would sometimes treat the blacks with as much or more contempt as the white population.

References and interesting reads:

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