Besides language, one of the defining characteristics of Afrikaners is their history. Many of the earlier settlers moved away from Cape Town, in part because of their resistance to Dutch and British rule, but also because of their attraction to their new environment. Their relations with the indigenous populations were mixed. They had generally good relations with the Khoi-khoi (Hottentots) and the San, but there was a mutual distrust and fear between the "trekkers," as the inland settlers came to be called, and the Xhosa. Based on these experiences, as well as a strong Christian (Calvinist) faith, Afrikaners came to believe that the only possible relationship between Blacks and Whites was master to slave or enemy to enemy.
A pivotal event, or series of events, in Afrikaner history was the northeasterly migration of the trekkers, or Voortrekkers (the pioneers). Precipitated by a number of conditions, including the annexation of Cape Town by the British, unpopular British regulations, and the emancipation of slaves, this "Great Trek" began in 1835. The Voortrekkers founded the republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, establishing constitutions that disallowed racial equality in church or state. Along the way, the Voortrekkers defeated the powerful Zulu nation, after its leader, Dingane, killed Pieter Retief and his party while they were his guests. Their deaths were avenged on 16 December 1838 at the Battle of Blood River; the date is now celebrated as a national holiday.
Another important event in Afrikaner history was the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), which was precipitated by conflicts between British gold seekers and Afrikaner farmers. Although the British won this war, it had the effect of creating an Afrikaner nation by providing a reason for Afrikaners of the Cape Colony to unite with Afrikaners who lived inland. The British soon restored self-rule to the two republics and convened a convention to plan the Union of South Africa. There were no Black representatives at the convention, and only White voters were allowed to vote on the ratification of the new constitution of South Africa. The Commonwealth country that was created established a color bar that literally prohibited Blacks or Coloureds from participating as equal members in the society. Britain sanctioned this policy by approving the formation of the Union of South Africa in the British Parliament.
The founding of the National party in 1914 is an important event in Afrikaner history, because that party played a major role in the policy that became known as "apartheid." When General Hertzog, the founder of the party (although later rejected by it), was elected prime minister in 1924, a number of policies were initiated that divided the Afrikaans-speaking people from the English-speaking people, as well as from all other people in the country. Afrikaans superseded Dutch as one of the two official languages. The separation of children by color in the schools became more absolute, and Afrikaners began to predominate in many official organizations, such as the South African Police and the civil service. The most powerful of all Afrikaner bodies at this time was the secret Broederbond (League of Brothers), consisting of the elite, the thinkers, and the philosophers of Afrikanerdom. They planned and worked for radical changes in South African society, which they were able to accomplish when, for the first time, they were able to bring to power one of their own, in 1948. In that year the first candidate, Dr. Daniel François Malan, who had the overwhelming support of the National party, was elected prime minister. His government was dedicated to achieving sovereign independence and the preservation of Afrikanerdom and the White race through apartheid. He began what many believe was a total restructuring of South African society, including the political, social, educational, and cultural separation of races. He carried out this transformation through a series of acts, including the Mixed Marriages Act, which prohibited marriages between the races, the Immorality Act, which prohibited sexual relations between the races, the Group Areas Act, which defined where people of different races could live, and the Population Registration Act, which determined the racial category of every person in the country.