Nelson Mandela Day

Amid the time of the ongoing #BLACK LIVES MATTER movements, let us go back in history to see how Nelson Mandela fought for change in South Africa, influencing the entire world even until today. After the tragic death of the black man George Floyd from police brutality, the world realized the problem of racial injustice was never completely resolved. See how we can learn from and follow Mandela’s spirits again decades later.

Early Life

In 1918, Nelson Mandela, originally named Rolihlahla Mandela, was born into the tiny village of Mvezo in South Africa. He later became the first Black president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 wining a democratic election, and a world changing politician.

Mandela experienced some hard time trying to survive through his childhood with his mother. They lived in huts and drank water from the streams. When Mandela was 12 years old, his father’s death from lung disease dramatically changed his life.

Being a social rights activist, Mandela spent a considerable amount of time – 27 years in prison for political offenses beginning in 1962.

He had witnessed extreme racial inequality in government policies and faced police brutality for his arrest in protests.

Entering Politics

Mandela started to participate in anti-apartheid movements and the African National Congress(ANC) during his twenties, after he was expelled from his university. Committed to peaceful and nonviolent campaigns, achieving political agenda using protests and strikes was his main goal in this black liberation group. 

Within the ANC, Mandela was in a small group of young Africans who believed the old tactics of polite petitioning were not effective anymore, forming African National Congress Youth League.

These young people’s intention was to transform ANC into a mass grassroots movement, giving voice to the millions of rural peasants under national party.

Travelling through the country to launch a defiance yet peaceful protest campaign against South Africa’s pass laws, Mandela tried to build support against discriminatory laws.

During 1962-1963, Mandela and many fellow leaders of the ANC were targeted for their activism and arrested for plotting to violently overthrow the government. It was, nevertheless, amid his years in prison that Mandela steadily gained his reputation and wide support from South Africa’s black population.

Immersed in speeches to end black inequality and unjust treatments, Mandela was elected ANC President in 1991 to replace his ailing friend, Tambo.

During his time in office, ANC was revitalized but still faced countless challenges from both the white minority ruling and Africanists who believed nonviolent methods would be ineffective in campaigns.

Winning the Nobel Peace Prize

It was not an easy road for Mandela to win the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with President de Klerk in South Africa.

However, they were awarded for their efforts ending the dismantling apartheid system of racial segregation in the country.

 After his release from prison, the negotiations for the country’s first multi racial elections faced some difficulties, in which many Black South Africans desired a radical transformation of power instead of simply sharing with white group.

In the interim of the demonstrations’ chaos, Mandela successfully maintained a delicate balance of political pressure and enthusiastic negotiations.

Utilizing the country’s fervor for sports, reconciliation between white and black people was achieved under Mandela’s presidency. South Africa even came to the point to host Rugby World Cup in 1995.


Mandela participated in many philanthropic activities during his life time, giving back and providing help to his community for those needed.

Benefiting from his law major in university, he founded the law firm Mandela and Tambo to provide free legal counselling to Black people in poverty.

Even after retiring, he set a pact schedule for himself and his charity foundation, raising money to help building schools and clinics in Africa’s rural areas. His journey to provide better living qualities for his people would never be stopped.

With his wife, Mandela also co-founded The Elders, joining together a group of world leaders to discuss solutions to most troublesome problems in the world.

Inspiring quotes from Nelson Mandela

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it… The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he conquers that fear.”

“I have fought against white domination, and I fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if it needs to be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of injustice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation.”

(Source: Georges De Keerle/Getty images)


Written by: Jinxin

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