- NAME: Nelson Mandela
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist, World Leader, Writer
- BIRTH DATE: July 18, 1918
- DEATH DATE: December 05, 2013
- EDUCATION: Clarkebury Boarding Institute, Wesleyan College, University College of Fort Hare, University of London, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Mveso, Transkei, South Africa
- PLACE OF DEATH: Johannesburg, South Africa
- Full Name: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
- AKA: Nelson Mandela
- AKA: Rolihlahla
- Nickname: Madiba
- Originally: Rolihlahla Mandela
- Nickname: Black Pimpernel
Best Known For
Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in 1994, serving until 1999. 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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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. And 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. Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the country's first black president on May 10, 1994, at the age of 77, with de Klerk as his first deputy.
Also in 1994, Mandela published an autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, much of which he had secretly written while in prison. The following year, he was awarded the Order of Merit.
From 1994 until June 1999, Mandela worked to bring about the transition from minority rule and apartheid to black majority rule. He used the nation's enthusiasm for sports as a pivot point to promote reconciliation between whites and blacks, encouraging black South Africans to support the once-hated national rugby team. In 1995, South Africa came to the world stage by hosting the Rugby World Cup, which brought further recognition and prestige to the young republic.
Mandela also worked to protect South Africa's economy from collapse during his presidency. Through his Reconstruction and Development Plan, the South African government funded the creation of jobs, housing and basic health care. In 1996, Mandela signed into law a new constitution for the nation, establishing a strong central government based on majority rule, and guaranteeing both the rights of minorities and the freedom of expression.
By the 1999 general election, Nelson Mandela had retired from active politics. He continued to maintain a busy schedule, however, raising money to build schools and clinics in South Africa's rural heartland through his foundation, and serving as a mediator in Burundi's civil war. He also published a number of books on his life and struggles, among them No Easy Walk to Freedom; Nelson Mandela: The Struggle is my Life; and Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales.
Mandela was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in 2001. In June 2004, at the age of 85, he announced his formal retirement from public life and returned to his native village of Qunu.
On July 18, 2007, Mandela convened a group of world leaders, including Graca Machel (whom Mandela would wed in 1998), Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing, Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus, to address some of the world's toughest issues. Aiming to work both publicly and privately to find solutions to problems around the globe, the group was aptly named "The Elders." The Elders' impact has spanned Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and their actions have included promoting peace and women's equality, demanding an end to atrocities, and supporting initiatives to address humanitarian crises and promote democracy.
In addition to advocating for peace and equality on both a national and global scale, in his later years, Mandela remained committed to the fight against AIDS—a disease that killed Mandela's son, Makgatho, in 2005.
Learn more about the lives of African-Americans who have made extraordinary achievements in their fields, with our collection of Black History Groups.
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