Nelson Mandela is a famous former world leader, but why is he so well-known?
Nelson Mandela is a Nobel prize-winning political figure who is credited with playing a major role in the creation of racial equality in South Africa. He served as the President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.
Read more about Nelson Mandela below.
Nelson Mandela was born in a small village in South Africa in 1918. His father served as a counselor for the village, though after losing this position, the family relocated to Mvezo, another small area in South Africa.
He was raised Christian and attended school, the first member of his family to do so. Though his birth name was Rolihlahla, in school he was given a traditionally western name, and hence became known as Nelson.
When he was aged just 12, his father died and he was subsequently taken in by a leader of the Thembu people. He relocated and lived in much more lavish surroundings than he had done previously.
He began to take an interest in South Africa history, and at a traditional ceremony, he heard a Chief talk of the impact that white people had brought to the country.
In 1939, he started his college career at the University of Fort Hare. Here, he became a student representative.
There was unrest from other students, however, at the perceived lack of power of the student representatives, and in a protest to the university’s officials, he resigned his position. This led to his expulsion from the institution.
His adoptive father was furious and arranged a marriage for Mandela. After hearing this news, Mandela ran away, choosing to head to Johannesburg and eventually studying law at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Politics and Imprisonment
Mandela joined the African National Congress, a group that fought against apartheid – the system which was imposing racial segregation and injustices in South Africa. He became a leading voice in the organization and helped to organize protests including strikes and boycotts.
After using only peaceful methods for many years, Mandela eventually founded an armed branch of the ANC, which would use war tactics in an attempt to bring an end to apartheid.
He orchestrated a workers’ strike and, using a false name, traveled around the world in an attempt to gain support for the movement. On his return, he was arrested for both traveling illegally and for his part in the strike, and was sentenced to five years of imprisonment.
In 1963, he faced trial once again, this time on political charges which could carry the death penalty. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and during the trial, made a now-famous speech, telling the court that he was fighting for an ideal “for which I am prepared to die.”
Mandela became a symbol of the movement toward racial equality, and after years of discussion, he was finally freed from prison in February 1990, while Frederik Willem de Klerk was President. In total, he was incarcerated for 27 years.
Only three years later, both Mandela and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel prize for peace for “work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”
The two men worked together to bring an end to white rule of the country and bring about real democracy.
In 1994, Mandela was elected as the country’s first black president. As president, he worked to bring white and black citizens together and end apartheid.
He stepped down at the end of his first term and chose to retire from his political career. He continued to work for his organizations, including the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, until the age of 85 when he officially retired.
In 2013, Mandela died at home at the age of 95.
There are a number of movies and books which detail Mandela’s experiences, including the movie ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’.