I am currently doing an assignment on apartheid laws. I chose the Separate Amenities Act. In an interview, what would be some good questions to ask someone who experienced it? 

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The Separate Amenities Act of 1953 codified much of apartheid into South African law. It made it legal to exclude people from public spaces and to create separate facilities that did not need to be of equal quality.

The purpose of an interview like yours is to get a firsthand, if anecdotal, picture of what it was like living under this particular law. Consider the following line of questioning.

Start off by asking some questions to establish who the person you are interviewing is. How old were they during apartheid? Ask some questions to establish who their family was and what socio-economic and racial communities they were part of. This will place the interview in a better context.

Next, you can ask for any specific stories of how this person was affected by these laws. It is always a good idea to ask the interviewee to share stories, not just facts. This gives the interview a more human feeling and makes it more relevant to others. It's also best to let the interviewee do most of the talking and just ask clarifying questions.

You should ask about how they felt about these laws. Also ask them if they know how others felt about it, like friends, family members, and neighbors. Understanding how apartheid was perceived at the time is great information to have.

You can end your interview with some questions that ask the interviewee to do some reflection on the topic. What advice do you have for South Africans today? What would you like people around the world to learn from your experience? Questions like these remind people that the lessons from the past are still relevant in the present.

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The Separate Amenities Act was connected to the system of segregation in South Africa. If you were to interview a person who experienced it, I would suggest several questions to ask in this interview.

Below is a pool of questions to consider asking. The goal of these questions is to try to get a picture of what it was like for this person who lived with these segregation laws.

  • How old were you when you first experienced segregation? (Understanding a person’s age should shed some light on that person’s experiences. A younger person may have a different view than an older person.)
  • Can you describe how the system of segregation worked? I would ask the person to focus on some form of public life such as a hotel, movie theater, or restaurant.
  • Explain how segregation worked in the field of education? How did this impact your education?
  • How did these laws impact your family?
  • How do you personally feel about these laws?
  • What, if anything, did you try to do to change these laws?
  • How do you believe these laws have impacted how you view the world today?
  • What do you tell your children or grandchildren about this time in South Africa's history?
  • What message would you like my classmates to take from your experiences?
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