It’s 1950. You and your family are all living together in a neighborhood that is full of diversity. Your neighbors watch your back and you watch your neighbors’ back. Music is crated and food is shared. On February 11th, 1966, this reality was changed when 60,000 people were kicked out of their homes due to the Group Areas Act. This act was passed in 1950, which designated people into different racial categories (White, Black, Honorary White, Chinese Asian, Other Asian, Cape Malay, Cape Colored, Colored, Other Colored, and Bantu). On February 11th, 1966, District Six was declared a White only area. Families were split up and displaced, just because the government decided that different races should not live together.
The District Six Museum, which is just down the street from where the district actually was, is a museum full of pictures and individual stories. On the floor of the museum, there is a map that was drawn by previous residents of the district, they each signed thes space they lived in. I found the personal nature of the museum to be a great way of remembering the people that lived there and their lives. There are suitcases around the museum displaying the small amount of belongings that people were allowed to take with them when they were removed from their homes. People took things that meant something to them, such as pictures, jewelry, and tea cups. The people living in District Six were only able to take one small suitcase with their belongings, and had to leave behind everything else.
Not only were they kicked out of their homes, but they also lost almost all of their belongings. This forced them to start over with nothing. The government’s intention to make the district a White only area was not accomplished. Although all of these people were removed, the entire area was demolished and made into nothing. It was just bare land.
We had a lovely museum guide named Ruth. Ruth, along with many of the guides, actually used to live in the district. From the museum, Ruth took us across Canterbury Street into District Six. She showed us where the old Jewish hub was before the Group Areas Act was enacted. Once the people living in the Jewish hub learned what the government was going to do, they sold all of the property. Ruth also took us past a college building that had been recently burned and destroyed during a Fees Must Fall protest by students. The students were protesting for lower education costs because it is still a very unattainable thing for university students here in South Africa. The area is full of so much history and present day activity which shows the importance of the area.
Ruth also told us a little bit of her life and her family connection to District Six. She actually grew up in the district with her mom, dad, and 10 siblings. When the government came on February 11, 1966 to remove her family from the home, her mother refused to leave because no other place would feel like home. Her family was one of the last ones in the district before they eventually had to leave. There is much more to her story, but it s not my place to tell it. Everyone should go to the District Six Museum to learn and hear personal stories about how the Group Areas Act affected families.