History of Africa

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918-2013) was a lawyer, political activist and president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

Mandela was one of the leaders of the movement against the apartheid regime in the country and spent 27 years in prison as a result of his political struggle.


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in the village of Mvezo, on July 18, 1918, into a family of aristocrats.

He was given the name Rolihlahla from his parents and at school, the name “Nelson”, following the custom of receiving an English name from the teachers, as the British could not pronounce the African names.

In 1927, with the death of his father, Henry Mgadla, Nelson Mandela, before he was 10 years old, went to live with his uncle and thus had access to an extensive formal education.

He studied at the “Clarkebury Boarding Institute” preparatory school, an elite black school, and “Healdtown College”, a boarding school.

In 1939, at the age of 21, he enters “Fort Hare University”, the first University in South Africa, founded in 1916.

At that time, South Africa was ruled by “Afrikaners”, descendants of English colonists who continued to maintain their privileged position.

The black population was marginalized through laws that regulated public spaces with specific beaches for whites and blacks to the use of bathrooms and drinking fountains. They also prohibited interracial marriage.

Fighting Apartheid

Involved in student movements and protests within the University, Mandela decides to leave college, before finishing his course, and goes to Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa.

It was at that moment, faced with the problems faced in the big city and the chasm between blacks and whites, that Mandela decided to go back to school and fight racism in his country.

In the mid-1940s, he graduated in Arts at the “University of South Africa” and Law at the “University of the Witwatersrand.”

In this context, Mandela began to attend meetings of the CNA (African National Congress), a movement against Apartheid. In 1944, together with Walter Sisulo and Oliver Tambo, they founded the “Liga Juvenil do CNA”. That same year, he married Evelyn Mase, with whom he had 4 children. The union, however, lasted 12 years.

In 1960, the “Sharpeville Massacre” occurs, when the police repress blacks who peacefully protested against the regime and were killed by the police. The action left 69 blacks dead and more than 100 injured.

This fact was decisive for Mandela to become even more involved in political militancy. He becomes the commander of the armed wing of the CNA, however, in 1962 he was convicted and imprisoned until 1990, for 27 years.


Nelson Mandela's arrest sent a wave of outrage across the world. Several protests were organized in London, Paris and the United States demanding the leader's release.

Even incarcerated in terrible conditions that included forced labor and isolation, Mandela did not stop writing and military.

His second wife, Winnie Madikizela, continued the fight against segregationism while calling for her husband's release.

Mandela proclaims that he must tread the “Path of Evidence” if he is to achieve his goal of creating a South Africa for blacks and whites.

South African presidents, however, have consistently refused to release him. Only in 1984 was there an offer. Mandela could get out of prison on condition that he stay away from politics. He declined the proposal and would be imprisoned for another six years.

On February 11, 1990, the president of South Africa, Frederik de Klerk, frees Nelson Mandela and, furthermore, withdraws the CNA from illegality. Thus, it would officially end apartheid law.

Three years later, both were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their fight for civil and human rights in the country. Mandela would go on to earn the title of "Father of the Fatherland" of the modern South African nation.

Thus, Mandela was elected president of the country in 1994 and ruled until 1999.

Upon leaving prison, Mandela gave a speech calling the country to reconciliation:

He passed away on December 5, 2013, in Houghton, Johannesburg, South Africa, aged 95.


  • Education is the most powerful weapon by which you can change the world .”
  • Whatever the God, I am master of my destiny and captain of my soul .”
  • I hate racism because I consider it a wild thing, whether it comes from a black or a white person .”
  • Democracy with hunger, without education and health for the majority, is an empty shell .”
  • No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, their origin or even their religion. To hate, people must learn, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love .”
  • If you talk to a man in a language he understands, it gets into his head. If you speak to him in his own language, you reach his heart .”
  • Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through her that a peasant's daughter can become a doctor, that a miner's son can become the director of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a country .”


In 2010, the UN (United Nations) defines the “International Nelson Mandela Day” (Mandela Day). ), celebrated on July 18, the date of his birth.

Several books, films and documentaries were inspired by the trajectory of Nelson Mandela, of which the following stand out:

  • the memoirs:“Conversations I Had With Me” (2010) and “Long Walk to Freedom” (2012);
  • the films:“Speech of Nelson Mandela” (1995), “Mandela, Fight for Freedom” (2007), “Invictus” (2009), “Mandela:Long Road to Freedom” (1994);
  • >
  • the documentaries:“Never Lose Hope” (1984), “Viva Mandela” (1990), “Countdown to Freedom:Ten Days That Changed South Africa” (1994), “Mandela:Son of Africa , father of a nation” (1996) and “Nelson Mandela:a just man” (2000).

Read more :

  • Racism
  • Apartheid

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