Born a Crime

by

Trevor Noah

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Born a Crime can help.

African National Congress

Founded in 1912, the major civil rights organization fighting for racial equality and the end of apartheid in South Africa, although it was formally outlawed but continued in secret from 1960-1990. Since Nelson Mandela’s… read analysis of African National Congress

Afrikaans

The predominant language among South African Afrikaners and colored communities, a version of Dutch brought by settler colonists that gradually evolved into a separate language over the course of centuries. read analysis of Afrikaans

Afrikaners

The descendants of Dutch settlers in South Africa, many of whom moved inland in the nineteenth century after losing control of Cape Town to the British. Afrikaners ran the apartheid government from 1948-1990 and introduced… read analysis of Afrikaners

Alexandra (Alex)

A cramped, poor, black township in Johannesburg. Because it is surrounded by wealthier white areas, it cannot expand, unlike Soweto. After high school, Trevor spends a year hanging out with Sizwe in Alexandra… read analysis of Alexandra (Alex)

Apartheid

The white supremacist legal system in place under the Afrikaner government from 1948 until 1990 that codified racial segregation and the political and economic disenfranchisements of nonwhites. All South Africans were classified as white, coloredread analysis of Apartheid
Get the entire Born a Crime LitChart as a printable PDF.
Born a Crime PDF

Cape Town

The oldest city in South Africa and the largest city in the country’s western portion, where Robert moves when Trevor is 13. read analysis of Cape Town

Colored

A racial category under apartheid as well as a distinctive South African ethnic group descended from Dutch colonists in Cape Town and native Khoisan women (in addition to Dutch slaves from Indonesia, indentured servants from… read analysis of Colored

Eden Park

A colored suburban neighborhood in Johannesburg where Patricia and Trevor move after apartheid. For the first time, they have a full house and Trevor has his own room, which makes him uncomfortable. The other… read analysis of Eden Park

Highlands North

A white Johannesburg suburb where well-off families live behind walls and barbed wire. Trevor moves into a house there with Patricia and Abel and lives there throughout high school (after which he moves down the… read analysis of Highlands North

Homelands

Also known as Bantustans, homelands were isolated rural areas to which the apartheid government deported urban South African blacks en masse. People from each ethnic group were sent to the same homelands so that… read analysis of Homelands

Inkatha Freedom Party

A militant, primarily Zulu political party that was active in the resistance to apartheid but has held little power since the beginning of democracy. read analysis of Inkatha Freedom Party

Johannesburg

The book’s primary setting is South Africa’s largest city and economic powerhouse, populated by people of diverse races, mother tongues, and ethnicities. Patricia lives nearly all her life there, and Trevor is born and raised… read analysis of Johannesburg

Necklacing

A form of murder, particularly common during riots in the apartheid era, in which tires are put over someone’s arms and chest, then the person is doused with petroleum and burned alive. read analysis of Necklacing

Nelson Mandela

The most internationally renowned anti-apartheid activist, the leader of the African National Congress, and the first democratically elected President of South Africa (1994-1999). Born in 1918, Mandela (whose Xhosa name is Rolihlahla and… read analysis of Nelson Mandela

Pedi

A minority ethnic group that lives primarily in South Africa’s northeastern Limpopo Province and the language they speak (both the group and the language are also known as Northern Sotho). Trevor’s prom date Babikiread analysis of Pedi

Soweto

An abbreviated form of “South Western Townships,” a black township in Johannesburg where most of Trevor’s family lives and he frequently visits in his childhood (although he cannot go outside because he looks coloredread analysis of Soweto

Swaziland

Now formally called eSwatini, a small, independent, ethnically Swazi nation landlocked between northeastern South Africa and southern Mozambique. read analysis of Swaziland

Townships

Neighborhoods like Soweto and Alexandria, usually on the outskirts of major cities, that were designated for nonwhites during apartheid. read analysis of Townships

Tsonga

An ethnic and language group living predominantly in northeastern South Africa and southern Mozambique. Abel is Tsonga and teaches Trevor the language; when he visits the Tsonga homeland, Trevor notes that the culture is deeply… read analysis of Tsonga

Xhosa

One of South Africa’s two largest ethnic groups (along with the Zulu), who live primarily in the southern part of the country. Trevor’s family is Xhosa, and he learns the language from a… read analysis of Xhosa

Zulu

Along with the Xhosa, one of South Africa’s two dominant ethnic groups, who are predominant in the Inkatha Freedom Party and have historically been the most militant opponents of colonialism. Trevor learns Zulu (which… read analysis of Zulu