- NAME: Nelson Mandela
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist, World Leader, Journalist
- BIRTH DATE: July 18, 1918 (Age: 94)
- EDUCATION: Clarkebury Boarding Institute, Wesleyan College, University College of Fort Hare, University of London, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Transkei, South Africa
- Full Name: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
- AKA: Nelson Mandela
- AKA: Rolihlahla
- AKA: Madiba
- Originally: Rolihlahla Mandela
- ZODIAC SIGN: Cancer
Best Known For
Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in 1994. A symbol of global peacemaking, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Nelson Mandela - Legacy (2:01)
Nelson Mandela - Early Life (2:57)
After being in prison for more than 25 years, Nelson Mandela was released and became the first black President of South Africa.
Despite overwhelming odds and the outlawing of the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela remained dedicated to his cause for freedom.
Nelson Mandela was born in a small South African village on July 18th, 1918. From here he would go on to become one of the greatest African leaders in history.
Watch a short video about Nelson Mandela and the obstacles that he overcame for equality in South Africa.
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He was arrested for leading the strike the following year and sentenced to five years in prison. Then, in 1963, he was brought to trial again. This time, he and 10 other ANC leaders were sentenced to life imprisonment for political offenses, including sabotage.
Nelson Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island for 18 of his 27 years in prison. During this time, he contracted tuberculosis and, as a black political prisoner, received the lowest level of treatment from prison workers. However,
while incarcerated, Mandela was able to earn a Bachelor of Law degree through a University of London correspondence program.
A 1981 memoir by South African intelligence agent Gordon Winter described a plot by the South African government to arrange for Mandela's escape so as to shoot him during the recapture. The plot was foiled by British intelligence, however. Mandela continued to be such a potent symbol of black resistance that a coordinated international campaign for his release was launched, and this international groundswell of support exemplified the power and esteem Mandela had in the global political community.
In 1982, Mandela and other ANC leaders were moved to Pollsmoor Prison, allegedly to enable contact between them and the South African government. In 1985, President P.W. Botha offered Mandela's release in exchange for renouncing armed struggle; the prisoner flatly rejected the offer. With increasing local and international pressure for his release, the government participated in several talks with Mandela over the years, but no deal was made. It wasn't until Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced by Frederik Willem de Klerk that Mandela's release was finally announced, on February 11, 1990. De Klerk also unbanned the ANC, removed restrictions on political groups and suspended executions.
Upon his release from prison, Nelson Mandela immediately urged foreign powers not to reduce their pressure on the South African government for constitutional reform. While he stated that he was committed to working toward peace, he declared that the ANC's armed struggle would continue until the black majority received the right to vote.
In 1991, Mandela was elected president of the African National Congress, with lifelong friend and colleague Oliver Tambo serving as national chairperson. Mandela continued to negotiate with President F.W. de Klerk toward the country's first multiracial elections. White South Africans were willing to share power, but many black South Africans wanted a complete transfer of power. The negotiations were often strained and news of violent eruptions, including the assassination of ANC leader Chris Hani, continued throughout the country. Mandela had to keep a delicate balance of political pressure and intense negotiations amid the demonstrations and armed resistance.
In 1993, Mandela and President de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work toward dismantling apartheid. Due in no small part to their work, negotiations between black and white South Africans prevailed: On April 27, 1994, South Africa held its first democratic elections.
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