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Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 to the Madiba Clan in Mvezo, Transkei (The Life and Times). He was born with the African name of Rolihlahla Mandela, but later received the “Christian” name of Nelson while attending primary school (The Life and Times). Mandela began a successful career at an early age when earning numerous degrees, becoming an active member of the African National Congress, and forming the ANC Youth League. During Mandela’s early life, Apartheid, a movement that discriminated against blacks in South Africa, was strictly enforced. Nelson Mandela is a man remembered for his extreme efforts in fighting Apartheid and the leadership positions he took on in Africa. Nelson Mandela played a significant role in the Anti- Apartheid movement by forming the ANC Youth League, being imprisoned, and becoming President of South Africa.
Nelson Mandela began his efforts in the Anti-Apartheid movement by joining the African National Congress in 1944. The African National Congress was formed as a black nationalist political party, but later banned by the South African government for their actions against apartheid. The ANC’s main goal is “to create a united, non-racial, non-sexist, and democratic society” (Unwembi). As an active member of the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela was able to help the efforts made to gain equality for black in South Africa, including traveling to other countries and attending conference meetings. One branch under the ANC is called the African National Congress Youth League. Mandela formed the Youth League in 1944 in hopes of getting the youth of Africa to join the Anti-Apartheid movement (Mandela and South Africa). The ANC Youth League hosted many strikes and protest on the new apartheid laws put in place by the South African government. Nelson Mandela gave extraordinary effort toward the ANC and the Youth League, including his long imprisonment. Mandela’s formation of the ANC Youth League created a way for the youth of Africa to not only contribute to the fight for racial equality during Apartheid, but still has impact on society today. The ANC Youth League currently has close to 400,000 members (Unwembi).
One of the events that Mandela is most recognized and honored for is his imprisonment for twenty seven years on Robben Island. Mandela left South Africa in 1962 under the ANC to travel to other African countries and help spread the word of their movement and efforts (Vail 45). Mandela had an amazing experience on his trip and was successful in his goals of reaching the attention of other independent African countries. Mandela once said, “Wherever I went, I was treated like a human being” (Vail 48). When Mandela returned to Johannesburg in 1962, a native gave a tip to the African police, leading them to the capture of Mandela. Mandela was soon brought to trial, and charged with “inciting strikes and leaving the country without valid travel documents” (Vail 48). Mandela made the decision of conducting his own defense, considering his degree in law and as creator of South Africa’s first black law firm (Mandela and South Africa). Mandela was found guilty on both charges and was served ten years of hard labor. During Apartheid, the African government banned the ANC from its constant protesting against the government and the new laws. The African police then received an anonymous tip that the African National Congress was located on the Rivonia farm. Several leaders were arrested, including Mandela. The arrested group members of the ANC all attended trial in 1963, and each were found guilty of, “attempting violently to overthrow the government” (Vail 50). As a result of the trial, Mandela was sentenced to life in prison under maximum security at Robben Island. Mandela’s arrest caused panic and loss of hope for current Africans in search of racial equality. It made the cause even more significant and personal for those fighting Apartheid with Mandela. The Robben Island prisoners lived in harsh conditions, which Mandela experienced for twenty seven years of his life. Mandela was placed in a seven foot square where he had a mat and a few other items to survive from. The guards of the prison constantly taunted Mandela and made statements such as, “You’re going to die here” (Vail 53). Mandela was awakened at five in the morning every day for a cold shower and tasteless food. His family visits were limited, leaving his wife Winnie Mandela in a state of shock and confusion. Mandela never used his position or popularity to gain an advantage in the prison, but was treated fairly with the other prisoners, a great example for Mandela’s views on equality. While Mandela was in prison, his whole family was affected and changed. Winnie was later arrested under the new Terrorism Act, which gave police “authority to arrest anyone suspected of committing or even inspiring actions that endangered law and order” (Vail 55). Winnie was eventually set free and became known as the “Mother of the Country”. With efforts and uprisings of the African natives, the white government was almost overthrown, giving back rights and equality to the blacks. Some agreed that the only way South Africa would positively be affected would be if imprisoned African National Congress leaders were set free from prison. Mandela was set free in 1990 and soon became the most influential South African leader, including the title of President of South Africa.
After Mandela’s release he continued to fight for the ANC and equality within South Africa. One accomplishment made in 1991 by Mandela was his signing to the National Peace Accord, “pledging to put a stop to violence and paving the way for a transition from Apartheid” (Mandela and Apartheid). In 1993, Mandela is awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize. Nelson Mandela gained the trust and popularity of South African natives, earning him sixty two percent of the votes for ANC in the 1994 election, leading to his presidency (Mandela and Apartheid). Mandela put an end to the apartheid laws put in place by the previous African government. Mandela’s wife Winnie also supported and helped the ANC during the Anti-Apartheid movement. Winnie was arrested several times under the ANC, banned, and frowned upon by the government during the years of Mandela’s imprisonment. Mandela included Winnie in his presidency when concerning the people and ANC efforts. Not only did Mandela help fight for equality and democracy to in South Africa by fighting Apartheid, but also as president, he brought attention to AIDS when his eldest son died from the disease. AIDS was not recognized at the time and many refused to believe that one could die from this disease. Now AIDS is most commonly found in South Africa and other surrounding areas and efforts are made to help the people protect themselves from getting AIDS. Mandela had a popular and successful presidency, but 1999 he resigned. After his presidency, Mandela continued to make beneficial contributions to Africa. He formed the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and the Mandela-Rhodes Foundation (The Life and Times).
Nelson Mandela made many achievements in his lifetime. His leadership in South Africa took on a significant role in helping create equality for South Africans. Mandela is recognized today with websites, memorials, and he even earned his own day known as “Mandela Day”. Mandela is currently ninety four, and still asks the generations ahead to “fight for social justice” (The Life and Times). Mandela is an epitome of a hero for South Africans and played a major role in creating democracy and equal rights for blacks. Mandela is honored for his fight against apartheid, including forming the ANC Youth League, being imprisoned for twenty seven years, and becoming president of South Africa.
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