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Chapter 1 disrupts the overwhelming focus on the white/Black binary that helped structure the systems of racial classification, segregation, and discrimination in South Africa. The chapter explores legal and missionary documents, government papers, and census records beginning in 1865 until the end of apartheid to define “Coloured” identity. Archival research shows that Indigenous Africans of Khoisan descent, biracial offspring of African and European encounters, immigrants from South Asia and East Asia, and English-speaking Blacks from the Caribbean, West Africa, and North America were all included in government definitions of the term. This unwieldy and inconsistent evolution reflects the hasty ways the government maintained racial order by creating divisions among Africans. This chapter follows the legal contours of Coloured identity to also explain in greater detail the moral logic that undergirded the racial hierarchy in South Africa.

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