BET Chronicles Nelson Mandela's Younger Years in 'Madiba'

Airing tonight on BET, 'Madiba' reveals the events that helped pave the way for Mandela to become one of the most enduring world leaders today.
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Nelson Mandela was the leader of the African National Congress in the 1960s before he was later sentenced to life in prison for sabotage.

Nelson Mandela was the leader of the African National Congress in the 1960s before he was later sentenced to life in prison for sabotage. (Photo: Getty Images)

In conjunction with its Black History Month programming, the BET channel launches the premiere of Madiba, a six-hour series about Nelson Mandela's life, starring Laurence Fishburne as the beloved South African leader. Based on Mandela's books Conversations With Myself and Nelson Mandela by Himself, the series chronicles the life and politics of a young Mandela and how the racism he encountered in Johannesburg and the influence of his political friends and activists catapulted him to becoming the most prominent anti-apartheid leader in South Africa.

In the same spirit of BET's Madiba, Bio goes back even further and explores the groundwork of Mandela's youth that helped prepare him for his fateful move to Johannesburg at the age of 23.

-Madiba came from high society. As a member of African royalty, Mandela was called Madiba — his clan name — during his youth. Growing up, his primary influences were from his Thembu tribal customs and his Christian education. The communalism he learned in his tribe drew him to socialism, while his Methodist upbringing eventually turned him into a pacifist while in prison.

-Mandela's father died when he was nine years old. His death made the young boy feel lost, but he later claimed he took on his father's "proud rebelliousness" and "stubborn sense of fairness."

-Separated from his mother, Mandela was sent to live with a Regent that took him in as his own and taught him important lessons. While there, Mandela observed how the Regent governed — listening to all sides of the community's issues before offering his own perspective. This back and forth dialogue would leave an imprint on Mandela's young mind and how he would handle problems in the future as a man.

"As I look back to those days I am inclined to believe that the type of life I led at my home, my experiences in the veld where we worked and played together in groups, introduced me at an early age to the ideas of collective effort.”

-Living with the Regent and his family, Mandela was given great educational opportunities. It was during this time he grew to love African folklore and history, implanting in him a steadfast pride in his origins. And despite being taught later in college that English government and culture were superior, Mandela continued to dive deep into African cultural studies. This would later influence his pro-African, anti-imperialist stance.

-It was during college that Mandela started getting into politics. A year into attending the University of Fort Hare in 1940, Mandela showed his first recorded participation in political activism. He became involved with the Student Representative Council and got expelled for its boycott over the quality of food the university offered its students.

-Marriage was the impetus for Mandela's great escape to Johannesburg. Angered by Mandela's expulsion, the Regent thought he could remedy the situation by arranging marriages for both Mandela and his own son. The two young men, who had no interest in getting married, ran away to Johannesburg in 1941. For Mandela, the rest is a long, arduous, but storied history.