Apartheid laws and policies served to create a hierarchy of four apparently distinct races in South Africa, which were systematically segregated from each other and provided with unequal access to material resources. The apartheid state was dissolved in 1994, and a new, democratic government installed, under relatively peaceful conditions. This special issue of the journal will examine the effects of this major social and political transformation on intergroup relations in South Africa. The present article outlines the history and nature of the transformation, and contextualizes aspects of race relations that will be explored in articles in this special issue.