The National Party passed a string of legislation which became known as petty apartheid. The first of these was the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act 55 of 1949, prohibiting marriage between white people and people of other races. The Immorality Amendment Act 21 of 1950 (as amended in 1957 by Act 23) forbade "unlawful racial intercourse" and "any immoral or indecent act" between a white person and an African, Indian or coloured person.
Blacks were not allowed to run businesses or professional practices in those areas designated as "white South Africa" without a permit. They were supposed to move to the black "homelands" and set up businesses and practices there. Transport and civil facilities were segregated. Black buses stopped at black bus stops and white buses at white ones. Trains, hospitals and ambulances were segregated. Because of the smaller numbers of white patients and the fact that white doctors preferred to work in "white" hospitals, conditions in white hospitals were much better than those in often overcrowded black hospitals. Blacks were excluded from living or working in white areas, unless they had a pass — nicknamed the dompas ("dumb pass" in Afrikaans). Only blacks with "Section 10" rights (those who had migrated to the cities before World War II) were excluded from this provision. A pass was issued only to a black person with approved work. Spouses and children had to be left behind in black homelands. A pass was issued for one magisterial district (usually one town) confining the holder to that area only. Being without a valid pass made a person subject to arrest and trial for being an illegal migrant. This was often followed by deportation to the person's homeland and prosecution of the employer (for employing an illegal migrant). Police vans patrolled the "white" areas to round up "illegal" blacks found there without passes. Black people were not allowed to employ white people in "white South Africa".
Although trade unions for black and "coloured" (mixed race) workers had existed since the early 20th century, it was not until the 1980s reforms that a mass black trade union movement developed.
In the 1970s each black child's education within the Bantu Education system (the education system practiced in 'black schools' within "white South Africa") cost the state only a tenth of each white child's. Higher education was provided in separate universities and colleges after 1959. Eight black universities were created in the homelands. Fort Hare University in the Ciskei (now Eastern Cape) was to register only Xhosa-speaking students. Sotho, Tswana, Pedi and Venda speakers were placed at the newly-founded University College of the North at Turfloop, while the University College of Zululand was launched to serve Zulu scholars. Coloureds and Indians were to have their own establishments in the Cape and Natal respectively.
In addition, each black homeland controlled its own separate education, health and police system. Blacks were not allowed to buy hard liquor. They were able only to buy state-produced poor quality beer (although this was relaxed later). Public beaches were racially segregated. Public swimming pools, some pedestrian bridges, drive-in cinema parking spaces, graveyards, parks, and public toilets were segregated. Cinemas and theatres in "white areas" were not allowed to admit blacks. There were practically no cinemas in black areas. Most restaurants and hotels in white areas were not allowed to admit blacks except as staff. Black Africans were prohibited from attending "white" churches under the Churches Native Laws Amendment Act of 1957. This was, however, never rigidly enforced, and churches were one of the few places races could mix without the interference of the law. Blacks earning 360 rand a year, 30 rand a month, or more had to pay taxes while the white threshold was more than twice as high, at 750 rand a year, 62.5 rand per month. On the other hand, the taxation rate for whites was considerably higher than that for blacks.
Blacks could never acquire land in white areas. In the homelands, much of the land belonged to a 'tribe', where the local chieftain would decide how the land had to be utilized. This resulted in white people owning almost all the industrial and agricultural lands and much of the prized residential land. Most blacks were stripped of their South African citizenship when the "homelands" became "independent". Thus, they were no longer able to apply for South African passports. Eligibility requirements for a passport had been difficult for blacks to meet, the government contending that a passport was a privilege, not a right. As such, the government did not grant many passports to blacks. Apartheid pervaded South African culture, as well as the law. This was reinforced by much of the media, and the lack of opportunities for the races to mix in a social setting entrenched social distance between people.