Two Black Polaroid Employees Fought Apartheid Head On And Became Victors

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Via Flickr
Adé Hennis
April 24, 2023

Passports are essential for traveling outside of your country, but in South Africa, passports were mandatory for Black people traveling within them. Why?

Passports, or “passbooks,” were used during apartheid. They allowed Black people to enter the white-only areas where they had to work. If they were caught without their passes, they could be imprisoned or worse.

Polaroid was the supplier of these passbooks, and the business partnership between the photography company and the apartheid-regime of the South African government went unnoticed, until two Black Polaroid employees noticed something strange at the American headquarters.

In 1970, Ken Williams and Caroline Hunter found a sample copy of the passbooks Polaroid was selling to South Africa to enforce Apartheid. After discovering how the global photo company was helping to enforce white supremacy, they fought to put an end to it and embarked on a campaign. They lost their jobs, but their work was done. By 1977, their protests grew and Polaroid was forced to stop selling the passbooks. 

While it was a great victory, the fight isn’t over.

Our Black tech professionals can help put an end to the practices global tech companies use that allow them to profit from anti-Blackness. Technology may be the future, but there is no future without Black people.