Home > Categories > Politics and Government > Politicians > Nelson Mandela's Biography

Nelson Mandela's Biography

Browse biogs A-Z

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 in Umtata.

Nelson Mandela was educated at Fort Hare College and then practised law in Johannesburg.

He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944 and founded the Congress Youth League. Mandela was heavily involved in the opposition to apartheid and in 1964 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for his leadership of the ANC.

Mandela refused to do any deals from his prison cell in Robben Island, consistently refusing the terms and conditions that P.W. Botha was trying to impose on his release. On 10 February 1988 he made a statement from prison saying: "Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts."

Nelson Mandela became a focal point for the anti-apartheid campaign. For example, there had been a constant picket outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square, London for 1,395 days until that day on February 11, 1990 when the world's television cameras showed a distinguished Nelson Mandela walking out of prison.

Hope for such an event had been aroused when on 2 February 1990 President de Klerk made a speech announcing Nelson Mandela and other black leaders' imminent release, the unbanning of the ANC and the intention to end the state of emergency as soon as possible.

Margaret Thatcher, in her autobiography, The Downing Street Years compared de Klerk to Gorbachev, saying, "In each case one man brought to power through an unjust oppressive system had the combination of vision and prudence to set about changing the system."

In 1991 Nelson Mandela was elected President of the ANC and in 1993 he and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

On 10 May 1994 Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black President; a post he held until 1999 when he was succeeded by Thabo Mbeki.

John Simpson's article, Rainbow Nation Alienating Whites, provides interesting background on events in South Africa since Mandela was elected.

Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom was published in 1994.

In March 2006, Nelson Mandela revealed to director Gavin Hood and young actors Presley Chweneyagae and Terry Pheto of the Oscar-winning film Tsotsi, how as a teenager in South Africa's rural Transkei region, he and his friends would use the dregs of traditional beer to steal pigs.

In June 2008 Nelson Mandela celebrated his 90th birthday with a concert in London's Hyde Park, which raised money for Nelson Mandela's HIV/Aids charity 46664, which was named after his prison number.

Nelson Mandela died on 5 December 2013, aged 95, after a long period of illness including a lung infection.

Back to Top

Latest User CommentsAdd your comment
Add your comment
To ensure you are a real person and not a computer please enter the following characters shown below: