This seminal book reveals how black labor was exploited in twentieth-century South Africa, the human costs of which are still largely hidden from history. It was the people of southern Mozambique, bent double beneath the historical loads of forced labor and slavery, then sold off en masse as contracted laborers, who paid the highest price for South African gold. An iniquitous intercolonial agreement for the exploitation of ultra-cheap black labor was only made possible through nightly use of the steam locomotive on the transnational railway linking Johannesburg and Lourenço Marques. These night trains left deep scars in the urban and rural cultures of black communities, whether in the form of popular songs or a belief in nocturnal witches' trains that captured and conveyed zombie workers to the region's most unpopular places of employment.
By tracing the journeys undertaken by black migrants, Charles van Onselen powerfully reconstructs how racial thinking, expressed logistically, reflected the evolving systems of segregation and apartheid. On the night trains, the last stop was always hell.