Nelson Mandela

By Stine Isak

Nelson Mandela was a civil rights leader who became the first black president of South Africa and worked his whole life in the anti-apartheid movement. He was a strong believer in peaceful protest, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. He published several books throughout his life, including his famous autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, and later No Easy Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela: the Struggle is my Life, and Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales.

Mandela's Life

Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Mueso, Transkei, South Africa, by the name Rolihlahla. He was the first member of his family to go to school, and was told by biased British teachers that his name would now be Nelson. His life changed drastically when he had to move to the tiny village Qunu after his father lost his title and fortune, and again when his father died of lung cancer. Mandela was only nine years old at the time, and was adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, who owed Nelson’s father a favor. Although struck by grief at having to leave his village, Mandela quickly adapted to a more luxurious life as someone with all the rights of a chief’s child. He went to school at the palace, and here he developed an interest in African history. He learned how whites had robbed black men of all the resources the natives had shared with them, and became saddened by the inequality his people faced as he grew older. After running away from home to escape an arranged marriage, he became a leader of the anti-apartheid movement, which seeked equal rights for black Africans. It fought against British control of South Africa, and the racist policies which the current government enforced. This movement put pressure on British South African leaders for a new constitution which was more fair to black citizens. Mandela led many peaceful protests and helped create significant progress in fighting against British tyranny, but was eventually arrested. While in prison, he wrote most of his autobiography.

In 1991, a decade after being released from prison, Mandela was elected the first black president of South Africa. He went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize Award in 1993.