TIME Argentina

Secret Nazi Hideout Believed Found in Argentina

Researchers found German coins and a porcelain plate dating back to World War II

Archeologists have discovered ruins in a remote jungle region of Argentina that are believed to be Nazi hideouts intended to act as safe havens if Germany lost World War II.

Inside three run-down buildings in the Teyú Cuaré park, near the border with Paraguay, researchers found five German coins minted during the Nazi regime and a porcelain plate marked “Made in Germany,” the Clarín newspaper reports.

“Apparently, halfway through World War II, the Nazis had a secret project of building shelters for top leaders in the event of defeat — inaccessible sites, in the middle of deserts, in the mountains, on a cliff or in the middle of the jungle like this,” team leader Daniel Schávelzon told Clarín.

In fact, the hideouts would prove unnecessary because after the war then Argentine President Juan Perón allowed thousands of Nazis, and other European fascists, to resettle in the South American nation. Most notorious among them was arguably Adolf Eichmann, a leading architect of the Holocaust, who in 1960 was found in Argentina by an Israeli intelligence group. He was abducted and eventually executed in Israel for his crimes.


Read next: How a Speech Helped Hitler Take Power

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TIME Social Media

Twitter Looks Back on Its 9-Year History, in Tweets

Social media site celebrates birthday with a round-up of influential moments and milestones

Twitter is celebrating its ninth anniversary on Saturday, and to commemorate the occasion, the social media site put together 10 of the most important tweets in its history.

The list acts as a potted history of the site, spanning early attempts to define the platform (co-founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet; the first use of a hashtag), major news moments that played out on the service (Sohaib Athar’s observation of a helicopter over Abbottabad during the Osama bin Laden raid) and celebrity moments (Ellen Degeneres’s Oscar selfie, the most-retweeted tweet of all time).

Watch the timeline play out in the tweets below.


Read next: Old Tweets Prove Dangerous for 2016 Campaign Staffers

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This App Alerts You When You’re Near a Spot Where a Woman Made History

Like getting a text from the great women of the past

A girls activist organization is partnering with Google to put women’s history on the map– literally.

SPARK, a group that works with girls age 13-22 to challenge sexualization in the media, launched a mapping project through Google’s Field Trip app that sends you a notification whenever you’re near a location where a woman once made history.

“It connects women’s stories to specific landmarks, so that wherever you are in the world, you could get an alert on your phone saying ‘hey, did you know that a woman once did a really cool thing right nearby?” explains SPARK executive director Dana Edell. The project is focused on telling stories of women who have been left out of traditional history books.

The partnership with Google began after SPARK published a report last year finding that only 17% of Google Doodle subjects were women, and only 4.3% were of women of color. Within an hour, Edell says, she got a call from Google asking how they could help spread the word about women’s history. That’s when they started talking about launching Women on the Map through Google Field Trips, an app which monitors where you are on Google Maps and notifies you when you’re near something interesting.

Women on the Map launched March 3, just in time for Women’s History Month, with 119 stories of women in 28 countries, all written and researched by girls aged 13-22. The project is crowdsourced, so anyone can submit a 300-word story about a woman in history– and it doesn’t have to be Susan B. Anthony. In fact, SPARK encouraged the girls to focus on women in their communities who might not ordinarily make it into their high school history textbook. “We didn’t want to start with women who everyone had heard of,” Edell says. “We want the project to expand what it means to be part of history.” So far, 60% of the stories are about women of color.

Anyone can submit a story– all you have to do is email a 300 word story about an important woman to Sparksummit@gmail.com, and describe how she influenced her community. And although she loves the partnership with Google, Edell hopes one day to host the project on a standalone app, so that the entries could be divided into artists, scientists, activists, and more. Right now, she says, she’s excited about getting the project off the ground “so that girls, boys and people of all ages can see that the world was created by more than just white men.”

TIME language

Winston Churchill Did Not Coin the Phrase ‘Iron Curtain’

Churchill's 'Iron Curtain' Speech
George Skadding—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivers a speech at Westminster College that addressed the Communist threat, and in which he uttered the now-famous phrase 'Iron Curtain,' Fulton, Mo., Mar. 5, 1946.

On the anniversary of his famous speech, TIME takes a look at why people misattribute quotes and just plum make them up

Exactly 69 years ago, on Mar. 5, 1946, Winston Churchill stood in a college gymnasium in Fulton, Mo., at the beginning of the Cold War, while President Harry S. Truman sat behind him in a gown and mortarboard. Speaking to students gathered at Westminster College, he accepted an honorary degree and famously condemned the Soviet Union’s ways: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”

The actual title of Churchill’s speech was “Sinews of Peace,” though most people know it as the “Iron Curtain speech.” Over the years there has been another twist of the record. Churchill often gets credit for coining that metallic metaphor—on that stage—for the figurative barrier drawn across Europe between the capitalist West and the communist East. But he did not. In fact, there’s evidence of the phrase being used to mean exactly that a good 26 years earlier when an E. Snowden (seriously) published a travelogue about her adventures in Bolshevik Russia.

So why do quotes get false histories? Lots of reasons.

Misattribution can be convenient. It’s easy not to question a coinage that it seems plausible—especially when it just so happens to give us good gravitas by association.

“You reach for a famous name to give authority,” says Elizabeth Knowles, editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. “You want to say Churchill said it. Because you have associated what you’re saying with that particular person, it gives the saying a bit more oomph.” Iron curtain just feels like something a dulcet, witty orator like Churchill would come up with, right? And it’s a much clearer signal that you’re educated and that your words have heft if you attribute a quote to Winston Churchill than to Snowden, an unremembered member of a trade-union delegation.

Many times people invoke quotations that were never said at all.

“Play it again, Sam.” Neither Bogart nor Bergman said these words.

“Elementary, my dear Watson.” Doyle wrote no such thing.

“Beam me up, Scotty.” Sorry, nope.

These get passed on because we wish people had uttered them. “A misquotation of that kind can be, almost, what you feel somebody ought to have said,” says Knowles. “It summarizes for somebody something very important about a particular film, a particular relationship, a particular event.” Even if it’s made up and especially if it’s close to things people really did say, we embrace it as gospel. After all, Bergman did utter, “Play it, Sam,” in Casablanca. And Bogart did say, “If she can stand it, I can! Play it!”

Sometimes misquotations get handed down because they convey the right idea and sound better to us than what the person actually said.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in which he said, “To give victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots only, are necessary.” Over time, that sentiment been recrafted as, “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” The latter version is snazzier. Even when sources know this precise phrasing was probably never really used by Lincoln, they continue to pass it on. Take Dictionary.com’s quotes site, where the well-sourced quote from 1858 is in the fine print. Also in fine print is the admission that the quote in giant font across the top of the page was “reconstructed” 40 years after Lincoln was supposed to have said it. Which, as far as editors at Oxford are concerned, he did not.

Screen shot taken from Dictionary.com

“It’s a very natural thing, that we edit as we remember,” Knowles says. “So when we quote something we very often have in mind the gist of what’s being said. So we may alter it slightly and we may just make it slightly pithier or simpler for someone else to remember. And that’s the form that gets passed on.”

While it may be easier to remember that Churchill invented the iron curtain, here’s the real history:

In its earliest use, circa 1794, an “iron curtain” was a literal iron screen that would lowered in a theater to protect the audience and auditorium from any fire occurring backstage. From there, it became a general metaphor for an impenetrable barrier. In 1819, the Earl of Muster described the Indian river Betwah as an iron curtain that protected his group of travelers from an “avenging angel” of death that had been on their heels in that foreign land. Then, in 1920, Ethel Snowden made it specifically about the East and West in Throughout Bolshevik Russia (1920):

At last we were to enter the country where the Red Flag had become a national emblem, and was flying over every public building in the cities of Russia. The thought thrilled like new wine … We were behind the ‘iron curtain’ at last!

Read TIME’s original coverage of the Mar. 5, 1946, speech, here in the TIME Vault: This Sad & Breathless Moment

Read next: You Can Now Own a Vial of Winston Churchill’s Blood

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TIME History

How One Woman Built an Empire on Lipstick and Lotion

Helena Rubinstein, or Madame, as she was called, blurred the line between art and make-up, amassing a fortune along the way

You might say Helena Rubinstein’s story began at 16, when her father renounced her for refusing an arranged marriage in the Jewish district of Krakow where she grew up. You might say it began when she ventured to Australia and, bombarded with questions from sunburned ladies about how she maintained her fair complexion, smelled a profit.

Whichever origin story you favor, it’s safe to say that where the story ends—multimillionaire magnate of a four-continent cosmetics empire that redefined beauty for generations of women—may surprise those whose memory goes only as far back as Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer.

Today there are more female CEOs than ever, but the number of offices they fill in the C-suite remains few. In Rubinstein’s time—she established her business in 1903, opened her first New York salon in 1915 and amassed $25 million by the time LIFE profiled her in 1941—they were as rare as a sunburn on Madame’s face.

An exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York City, “Helena Rubinstein: Beauty Is Power,” is the first to explore the influence and artifacts of Rubinstein’s life. (The exhibit, which ends on March 22, will travel to the Boca Raton Museum of Art, where it will be on view beginning on April 21). Rubinstein’s legacy is less about the fact that her brand existed than it is about the message it conveyed, says Jewish Museum curator Mason Klein. Her flavor of beauty for the masses “served not only to level the snobbish aesthetic taste that was upheld by others”—like her longtime rival Elizabeth Arden—“but, more importantly, to expand the notion of who and what could be considered beautiful.”

It might raise some eyebrows to suggest that the mass marketing of skin creams and mascara would positively influence women’s feelings of self-worth. But Rubinstein’s mission was not just to change how women look. It was to give women the ability to define their interior lives too. “She didn’t really want her clientele to think of going to a salon and being made over like you paper a room or reupholster a piece of furniture,” Klein says.

During a day at the Rubinstein salon (which could be found in more than a dozen cities worldwide), a woman could expect to be “stretched, exercised, rubbed, scrubbed, wrapped in hot blankets, bathed in infra-red rays, massaged dry and massaged under water, and bathed in milk—all before lunch.”

But when the milk baths were over, the salon Rubinstein conceived of shared more than a name with the literary salons she frequented in Paris. With the fortune she amassed, Rubinstein had become both a patron of the arts and a discerning collector, boasting one of the first extensive collections of Latin American art and one of the most important early collections of African and Oceanic art. For her, there was no line between commercial beauty and modern art—and if there was, she was trying to blur it.

A patron of Helena Rubinstein’s salons—which operated at a loss but helped evangelize her line of 629 products—learned about art, design and color, developed her own personal taste and incorporated it into the way she presented herself to the world. According to Klein, with “her encouragement of women to trust their own instincts and her advocacy of exceptionality at a time when non-conformism was taboo, she offered women this ideal of self-invention, and that’s a fundamental principle of modernity.”

Getting to international magnate status requires an ingredient many women are told is unbecoming: self-promotion. LIFE wrote that despite Rubinstein’s genius for marketing—she was, among other things, an early adopter of the white lab coat uniform—“Rubinstein’s greatest promotion … is undoubtedly herself.” She commissioned portraits by artists from Warhol to Picasso, and featured prominently in her own ads. A couple of inches shy of five feet tall, before an important meeting she often placed a cushion under her seat to increase her stature, letting her legs dangle behind her desk.

Success on this level also requires a shrewd business savvy, and Rubenstein was nothing if not conservative with the company coffers. “If somebody offered Rubinstein a package of gum for a nickel she would say ‘too much,’” one associate told LIFE, “in the hope that it was the only package of gum in the world that could be bought for four cents.” And she sniffed out new markets with the same discerning nose she used to nix or approve perfume scents. “Ever on the lookout for new sales openings,” LIFE wrote in 1941, “she has lately been turning over in her mind the idea that perhaps the beauty business has exploited only half its potential market.” As she put it herself: “Men could be a lot more beautiful.”

Rubinstein made a bold decision, too, in keeping her name at a time when anti-Semitism kept her flagship storefront relegated to 5th Avenue side streets for two decades. (Money, of course, was a powerful tool in the face of discrimination. When she tried to upgrade from one posh Park Avenue apartment to another with a bigger balcony, she was told that the owner didn’t rent to Jews. She promptly told her accountant to buy the whole building.) Emblazoning her name on products and advertisements not only affirmed her identity (even as a non-practicing Jew), but appealed to the masses of immigrant women pouring into the country, going to work and seeking to define their identities in America.

When Helena Rubinstein equated beauty with power, her aim was not only profit, but empowerment. Reflecting on her life in 1964 at an age she called “older than you think,” she told LIFE she squeezed 300 years of work into a single lifetime. “Shrugging like a Jewish grandmother she claims, ‘I did it not for money but because I love work. I will never retire.’”

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME History

You Can Now Own a Vial of Winston Churchill’s Blood

Sweat, toil and tears not included in the sale.

Looking for the perfect present for the history buff who has everything? A vial of Sir Winston Churchill’s blood is going up on the auction block.

Churchill famously said he had nothing to offer but “blood, toil, tears and sweat” and now some of that blood is to be auctioned off to the highest bidder by Duke’s Auctioneers on March 12.

The blood was collected when Churchill was in the hospital for a fractured hip in 1962. Typically vials of blood are discarded when they are no longer medically necessary, but the nurse who collected it, an apparent fan of the former Prime Minister, received special permission to keep the vial. Upon the nurse’s death, it was bequeathed to a friend who decided to sell the historical medical waste to mark the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death.

The market value of the vial “is a very difficult thing to estimate,” Timothy Medhurst, an auctioneer and appraiser at Duke’s, told the New York Times. The vial is “the most poignant and unique memorabilia we’ve ever had,” he adds, saying that the blood sample “is the closest you can get to Churchill.”

Keeping all that in mind, he expects the blood to sell for at least 1,000 GBP ($1,550 U.S.) The blood will be sold together with a signed declaration by the nurse detailing the circumstances in which she acquired it.

MONEY Markets

Oil Prices: Freaking Investors Out for 150 Years and Counting

Oil derricks moving up and down
Getty Images

The entire oil and gas industry has pretty much maneuvered from crisis to crisis since its inception.

Whenever I read or watch financial media coverage of oil prices lately, the image that comes to mind is a bunch of kids who just ate half their weight in candy, washed it down with a gallon of Red Bull, and then run around the playground at warp speed. They both move so fast and sporadically that is almost impossible to keep up with them.

Here is just a small example of headlines that have been found at major financial media outlets in just the past week:

  • Citi: Oil Could Plunge to $20, and This Might Be ‘the End of OPEC’
  • OPEC sees oil prices exploding to $200 a barrel
  • Oil at $55 per barrel is here to stay
  • Gas prices may double by year’s end: Analyst

What is absolutely mind-boggling about these statements is that these sorts of predictions are accompanied with the dumbest thing that anyone can say about commodities: This time it’s different.

No it’s not, and we have 150 years worth of oil price panics to prove it.

Oil Prices: From one hysterical moment to another

The thought of oil prices moving 15%-20% is probably enough to make the average investor shudder. The assumption is that when a move that large happens, something must be wrong with the market that could change your investment thesis. Perhaps the supply and demand curves are a little out of balance, maybe there is a geopolitical conflict that could compromise a critical producing nation.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s just what oil prices do over time.

Ever since 1861 — two years after the very first oil well was dug in the U.S. — there have been:

  • 88 years with a greater than 10% change, once every year and a half
  • 69 years with a greater than 15% change, or once every 2.25 years
  • 44 years with a greater than 25% change, once every 3.5 years
  • 13 years with a greater than 50% change, once every dozen years or so

Also keep in mind, these are just the change in annual price averages. So it’s very likely that these big price pops and plunges are even more frequent than what this chart shows.

Investing in energy takes more stomach than brains

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of basing all of your energy investing decisions on the price of oil and where it will go. On the surface it makes sense because the price of that commodity is the lifeblood of these companies. When the price of oil drops as much as 50% over a few months, it will likely take a big chunk out of revenue and earnings power.

As you can see from this data, though, the frequency of major price swings is simply too much for the average investor to try to time the market. Heck, even OPEC, the organization that is supposed to be dedicated to regulating oil prices through varying production is bad at predicting which way oil prices will go.

The reality is, being an effective energy investor doesn’t require the skill to know where energy prices are headed — nobody has that skill anyways. The real determining factor in effectively investing in this space is identifying the best companies and holding them through the all the pops and drops.

Let’s just use an example here. In 1980, the price of oil — adjusted for inflation — was at a major peak of $104. From there it would decline for five straight years and would never reach that inflation adjusted price again until 2008. For 15 of those 28 years oil prices were one-third what they were in 1980. If we were to use oil prices as our litmus test, then any energy investment made in 1980 would have been a real stinker.

However, if you had made an investment in ExxonMobil in 1980 and just held onto it, your total return — share price appreciation plus dividends — would look a little something like this.

XOM Total Return Price Chart

So much for all those pops and drops.

What a Fool believes

The entire oil and gas industry has pretty much maneuvered from crisis to crisis since its inception, we just seemed to have forgotten that fact up until a few months ago because we had two years of relative calm. The important thing to remember is that the world’s energy needs grow every day and the companies that produce it will invest and make more money off of it when prices are high and less money when prices are low.

Based on the historical trends of oil, analysts will continue to go on their sugar-high proclamation streak and say that oil will go to absurd highs and lows so they can get their name in a financial piece, and they will try to tell you that this time it’s different because of xyz. We know better, and they should as well.

There’s 150 years of evidence just waiting to prove them wrong.

TIME Retail

3 Shocking Facts You Didn’t Know About Presidents Day

A Sliding Scale
MPI—Getty Images A satirical cartoon showing the sliding scale of worth of American politicians, circa 1896.

It's really just a result of smart branding

This Monday, Americans will enjoy their annual celebration of Presidents Day, a vague commemoration of all things presidential, one might think.

Think again. Here are three things you might not have known about Presidents Day:

Technically, it’s still “Washington’s Birthday”

According to section 6103(a) of title 5 of the U.S. Code, this Monday commemorates “Washington’s Birthday,” not “Presidents Day.”

The name change coincided with a Congressional initiative to attach federal holidays to the weekend, thereby creating an uninterrupted, three-day stretch of leisure time.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, which hit the voting floor in 1968, nudged “Washington’s Birthday” from a fixed date, February 22, to every “third Monday in February,” i.e. not Washington’s birthday. But the name stuck.

Presidents Day is a brilliant stroke of branding

The ever-shifting holiday also happened to dance around Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which several states marked as a separate holiday on February 12. Retailers, eager to promote discounts on both days, seized on the name “Presidents Day” to lure in shoppers regardless of which president they might happen to be celebrating. Gradually the catch-all term fell into common use.

It’s also not quite a holiday

Calling it a “holiday” doesn’t make it so. Yesware, an email analytics firm, crunched the numbers on 23 million emails circulating through corporate inboxes over the course of one year. Their finding: Open and reply rates on Presidents Day exceeded other federal holidays, and even a typical workday.

This is partly a function of workers receiving fewer emails overall, making a quick scan through the inbox a bit easier. It also suggests that when it comes to federal holidays, Presidents Day is the least sacrosanct.

TIME Civil Rights

How Marriage Equality in Alabama Is Not Like the Civil Rights Movement

Alabama's governor George Wallace (L) fa
OFF / AFP/Getty Images Alabama's governor George Wallace (L) faces General Henry Graham, in Tuscaloosa, on June 12, 1963, at the University of Alabama

"The fundamental difference is that accepting gays and lesbians and their rights is not nearly as painful," says one historian of the Civil Rights era

Here’s an SAT-level analogy question: Is Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court to the marriage equality movement what Alabama Governor George Wallace was to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s?

The comparison is an easy one to make, and numerous outlets drew the connection on Monday, in the aftermath of Moore’s attempt to halt same-sex marriages in his state. Facing integration of the University of Alabama in 1963, which had been mandated years earlier by Brown v. Board of Education, Wallace tried to block the change and was met by National Guard troops. This week, Moore defied a federal District Court ruling by ordering local probate judges not to license same-sex marriages, a bold challenge to the established principle of federal supremacy over state courts. In short, both Wallace and Moore relied on states’ rights claims to defy the federal government’s demand for social change.

Still, while some may see Moore’s last stand as a symbolic stand like Wallace’s, historians say the difference in context suggests that Moore is more likely to disappear with a whimper than a bang. Wallace was a martyr for a population heavily invested in the status quo. Moore is a martyr for a population resigned to change.

“Wallace was riding the segregation wave at its height,” says Dan Carter, author of George Wallace biography The Politics of Rage. “The fundamental difference is that accepting gays and lesbians and their rights is not nearly as painful. I think the gay issue, even in the deep South, in the most conservative areas, it’s kind of a resigned acceptance.”

An analysis of demographic and voting data by the New York Times suggests that two-thirds of state residents are likely opposed to the unions. But opposition today is not nearly as strong as white southerners’ opposition to civil rights for black Americans was in 1963, Carter says, pointing to Southern newspaper coverage. In the 1960s, few Alabama newspapers would dare publish anything sympathetic to civil rights, according to Carter. On Monday, when same-sex marriages began, the state’s largest newspaper said it was an “extraordinary day.”

And, though a conflict between the state and federal governments persists — probate judges in some Alabama counties aren’t issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing Moore’s guidance — it remains unclear how the federal government will respond. At this point, it seems unlikely that such a response would mirror what happened in the 1960s.

“Bobby Kennedy was willing to bring in federal marshals, willing to nationalize the National Guard in states,” says University of Alabama history professor Glenn Feldman, referring to the then-Attorney General’s response to Wallace in the 1960s. “I’m not sure if the federal government today has the political backbone or will to make people respect it.”

Whether or not the White House ultimately cracks down on wayward Alabama judges, it’s hard to imagine that the situation would escalate as it did in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy sent in the National Guard to force integration. That’s because, in all likelihood, such measures would probably be unnecessary. Some of the judges under Moore’s purview ignored his order, and others said they’re waiting for clarification. Furthermore, Moore only has authority over the state’s judicial employees, not the state troopers and others whom Wallace used to fight integration.

Today, conservative Alabama Governor Robert Bentley seems sympathetic to Moore and hasn’t tried to restrict him. (He’s said he doesn’t want to “further complicate this issue.”) But he also seems likely to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling. “The issue of same sex marriage will be finally decided by the U.S. Supreme Court later this year,” he said in a statement. “I have great respect for the legal process, and the protections that the law provides for our people.”

For his part, President Obama — who has addressed the comparison to Wallace — also seems to believe that the courts can take care of this issue on their own, without the kind of intervention that was necessitated five decades ago. “I think that the courts at the federal level will have something to say to him,” he told BuzzFeed News about Roy Moore this week.

So, the states’-rights justifications for Wallace and Moore may be the same, but historical distinctions mean the resolution to Moore’s defiance is likely to be far less dramatic than Wallace’s was.

There is one more difference between them, however, and it suggests that such a resolution may not be the end of Moore’s story: Moore may not be ready to give up, even when moving on makes political sense. Wallace’s opposition to integration was driven by a political desire to win over his constituents, Feldman and Carter note, so he changed his views when it was no longer advantageous for him to oppose civil rights. Looking at Moore, however, they see someone whose deeply-held religious beliefs may lead him to push his authority further, even as the opinions of those around him evolve.

“He actually believes this stuff,” says Feldman. “He actually believes in his heart of hearts that the federal government is not a position to tell states what to do.”

TIME History

See the Photos That Gave Americans Their First Glimpse of Apartheid in 1950

On the 25th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison, a historian examines the LIFE photo essay that introduced Americans to South Africa's devastating system of segregation

A photograph of two muscular young black men dominated the page. Their faces and shirtless torsos, drenched with sweat, filled the frame, giving them an almost palpable physical presence. Hard hats, tilted back to expose their faces, encircled their heads like halos. Lanterns on the hats and the dark rock behind the men told LIFE’s readers that they were miners.

The two men averted their eyes from the camera, their expressions composed but inscrutable. Who were these men behind their enigmatic masks? LIFE’s caption provided no answers. It identified them only as “Gold Miners Nos. 1139 and 5122,” the numbers the mine had assigned these “units.” On the opening page of “South Africa and Its Problem,” the photo essay that introduced America to apartheid, the men were symbols rather than individuals, emblems of oppression and exploitation.

“Apartheid,” a word that means, simply, “apart-hood,” will forever be associated with South Africa’s notorious system of racial domination and with the freedom struggle that brought it to an end. In 1950, when LIFE published its exposé, the word was still unfamiliar to most Americans. The term itself had begun to gain currency only after the South African National Party’s electoral victory in 1948.

Although 300 years of colonialism had created a racial hierarchy, the party promised that apartheid would be more comprehensive than anything that had come before, ensuring that white supremacy would survive for generations to come. LIFE’s editors viewed apartheid as a troubling development. South Africa was an American ally, and this new, more virulent form of racism had the potential to destabilize the Cold War order. They assigned Margaret Bourke-White to produce the pictures that would explain apartheid to Americans.

Bourke-White was an obvious choice for such an important assignment. Her compelling reportage for LIFE from the Soviet Union during World War II, from India at the time of independence and from throughout the United States during the Great Depression had made her one of the most famous and respected photojournalists of her era. She arrived in South Africa in late 1949 and left in mid-April 1950, traveling widely in South Africa proper and visiting South West Africa (now Namibia, then South Africa-governed) and Bechuanaland (now Botswana, then a British colony). She produced over 5,000 photographs, covering subjects that ranged from landscapes to cabinet ministers to “native” women in colorful costumes.

Margaret Bourke White in South Africa, 1950
Margaret Bourke-White—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

As her time in South Africa lengthened, Bourke-White increasingly turned her attention to the farms and gold and diamond mines that underpinned South Africa’s economy. She made some of the first photographs that captured the grueling conditions deep inside South Africa’s gold mines. She photographed convict laborers — most of whom had been found guilty of minor offenses — being marched at gunpoint to white farmers’ fields.

Her images exposed the wine farms’ infamous “tot system,” a practice that paid workers, some of them children, partly in cheap wine, thereby addicting them to alcohol and creating a dependent labor force. She showed African men queuing for passbooks, the degrading internal passports that allowed them to move around in the country of their birth. She photographed women and children amid the dirt and decay of urban shantytowns.

The photographs LIFE published in “South Africa and Its Problem” spoke eloquently about the indignities that blacks endured, the wealth that they created but did not enjoy, and about the political and economic structures that kept them in their place. It cast blacks as workers and “natives,” who were essentially passive in the face of an oppressive system. “The Whites Won the Land, the Blacks Work It,” one of LIFE’s headlines proclaimed. There seemed to be little hope for change

It was a convincing argument, but it was profoundly incomplete.

Modern readers are likely to wonder, after flipping through the essay, Where is Nelson Mandela? And where is the African National Congress (ANC) he led to power in 1994? More broadly they might ask, Where is any evidence at all of black activism? The evidence, in the form of Bourke-White’s photographs, existed. LIFE’s editors chose not to publish almost all of it and to minimize the rest.

“South Africa and Its Problem” contains only the slightest hint of the activism that would ultimately transform the country, despite the fact that the 1940s and early 1950s were a time of tremendous cultural and political dynamism among black South Africans. The last photograph in the essay, and by far the smallest, was an image of an ornamental plinth in front of Johannesburg’s city hall. On it, somebody had scrawled, “God is Black.” LIFE explained the scene by saying that the words were written by “a resentful Native.” Bourke-White understood its deeper significance. In a note to her editors, written while she was still in South Africa, she explained that the message was “[s]ymptomatic of the growing racial self-consciousness of the black folk of South Africa.”

Bourke-White was aware of the changing self-consciousness because she had photographed and spoken with black activists and intellectuals. She photographed a rally that had been called to protest “Police Terror” and the hated passbooks. A close-up of Phillip Mbhele, one of the protestors, showed him wearing a badge that read, “We Don’t Want Passes.” She also photographed union meetings and a campaign that urged better education for African children. She made portraits of several anti-apartheid leaders, although not Nelson Mandela.

It is likely that LIFE’s editors chose not to publish these photographs because many of the demonstrations and activists that organized them were associated with the Communist Party of South Africa. (At this time, the ANC and most of its members, including Mandela, were hostile to communism. Neither ANC members nor activities appear in Bourke-White’s photographs.) Given the anti-communist fervor that pervaded American culture at the time, editors may well have believed that they were doing black South Africans a favor by remaining silent about activism. Ties to communism would have made it difficult for many readers sympathize with the freedom struggle.

The editors’ decision to hide what they knew about black activism did Bourke-White, their readers, and black South Africans — the vast majority of whom had nothing to do with communism — a disservice. It compromised an analysis of South African society that was otherwise as moving as it was convincing. “South Africa and Its Problem” created a flattened, one-dimensional representation of black communities by failing to reveal the cultural and political dynamism that would eventually free them.

Six decades after its publication, the photo essay remains a compelling analysis and explicit condemnation of racial injustice at the dawn of the apartheid era. If not for its omissions, though, it could have been so much more.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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