Nelson Mandela

Chase McCullough

Early Years

Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918. He grew up poor in a small South African village. When Mandela was nine, he was adopted by and sent to live with his father’s friend, a prosperous clan chief.

In school, Mandela learned about African history and his ancestors’ struggles with discrimination. He wanted to help his countrymen. He later traveled to Johannesburg, where he studied law and opened the country’s first black law practice. He also joined the African National Congress, a group that fought for racial equality.

Mandela Through the Years

For President

On February 11, 1990, South African president F.W. de Klerk released Mandela from prison, and the two worked together to end apartheid. Three years later, they won the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

In 1994, for the first time in South African history, nonwhites were allowed to vote in democratic elections. Mandela was elected president by an overwhelming majority. While in office, he worked to improve housing, education, and economic opportunities for the country’s large black population.

Mandela stepped down as president in 1999.


Jacob Zuma, South Africa's president, announced Mandela's death at a news conference. "We've lost our greatest son," Zuma said. Nelson Mandela died December 5, 2013 at the age of 95.