Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18th, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa. From 1948 to 1994 South Africa suffered a system of racial segregation called apartheid. Any South African black, Asian, or person of mixed ancestry were separated from the white society and had no participation in government.
Nelson Mandela became a very influential independence leader. He entered politics in 1942 and joined the African National Congress in 1944. Mandela lead both peaceful protests and armed resistance against the white minority's who took almost all rights away from black South Africans. In 1948 his commitment to the ANC became stronger and by 1952 Nelson Mandela helped lead the Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws. Mandela promoted the Freedom Charter, organized protests, and opened South Africa's first black law firm. In December of 1956, 155 activists were arrested including Nelson Mandela, and put on trial for treason.
Police were brutally attacking activists, they killed 69 peaceful protesters. Massacres and violent riots broke out. The government banned the ANC and the PAC which was the Pan Africanist Congress, a portion of the original African National Congress that broke off into their own group but had the same motives. Nelson decided that peaceful protesting and civil disobedience was not working and he needed to find a different approach. Mandela became the first leader of a new group, called Umkhonto we Sizwe, which means "Spear of the Nation". This was a more secret branch of the ANC and was also known as the MK.
Nelson Mandela was convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government and imprisoned for 27 years. For the first 18 years Nelson was kept at Robben Island and was very isolated with very little food and forced labor in the rock quarry. He was allowed one visitor a year and was not given a bed or bathroom in his cell. These years were long and painful for Mandela but meanwhile black South Africans were still fighting for independence. Apartheid became the way of life in South Africa, there were bathrooms strictly for whites and blacks had no government influence whatsoever. Blacks were not allowed to travel without a card saying otherwise and inter-racial marriages were completely banned. Black South Africans were treated very poorly and got their land taken away by the whit minorities who wanted full control over the country. Nelson Mandela became the symbol for resistance to apartheid and inspired many others to continue the resistance. The economy of South Africa was falling apart and black resistance continued, more people started to realize that change was needed in the country.
Speech from the Dock quote by Nelson Mandela on 20 April 1964 “I have fought against white domination, and I have 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 needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
After almost 3 decades of imprisonment, the president of South Africa FW de Klerk gave into the worldwide cries to free Mandela. Nelson Mandela was released, the ANC was no longer banned, and Nelson was elected the first black president of South Africa in 1994. The poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley inspired Nelson Mandela on his quest to end apartheid in South Africa. With almost all of South Africa on Mandela's side apartheid came to an end and people were united as one.
Nelson Mandela symbolizes change and equality and he showed the world that independence can be accomplished. Nelson Mandela led a great movement and served an effective and amazing presidency. Mandela has received many awards throughout his lifetime including the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Gandhi's Peace Prize, and the World Citizen Award. Mandela passed away on December 5th, 2013, but still leaves a legacy of equality not only in South America but globally.