Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) dedicated his life to eradicating racial inequality in South Africa. Through various forms of protest, he led a movement to bring down apartheid’s system of segregation. He became the first black president of his country after his tireless efforts earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. This biography of Nelson Mandela tells the story of this prominent philanthropist and activist.

An overview of Nelson Mandela’s life

The index

  • Tribal childhood

  • The new life of Nelson Mandela

  • A new horizon

  • Mandela’s imprisonment

  • Life in prison

  • Nelson Mandela, former president

  • Leaving an indelible mark

Tribal childhood

In the Transkei region of South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918. Born to a man of enormous prestige in his tribe, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa Mandela was one of thirteen children. As a result of his religious beliefs, Gadla had a total of four wives. Mandela’s mother, Nosekeni Fanny, was a loving and dedicated mother.

Nosekeni baptized his son in a Methodist church to ensure that he would have an excellent education. As a result, Mandela was the first Gadla child to attend school. Upon entering, one of his professors gave him the name Nelson, because it was not common for students to have names of African descent. Mandela’s father died of pulmonary complications some years later, in 1928.

The new life of Nelson Mandela

A chief of a more advanced tribe adopted Nelson Mandela as a gesture of appreciation for Gadla’s hard work. After moving to the royal palace, the young man expected to enjoy a life with many more comforts than he had in his native tribe. As a result of this change, he had access to a higher quality of education in an institution near the palace. He acquired a vast knowledge of history and general culture during these years while learning English.

As a result of studying the history of South Africa, Nelson Mandela developed a position on racial segregation. In the books he read, the natives lived in peace until the whites stripped them of their privileges and resources. In the midst of this dark reality, Mandela became convinced that an independent country was necessary. His new mentality led him to begin higher studies at a Clarkebury institution.

Nelson Mandela was admitted to the University of Fort Hare in 1939, the only South African university that admitted black students. While he was an excellent student, the differences between the young man and the board of directors of the institution, which did not provide the students with the necessary comforts, did not take long to develop. A large protest for the rights of black students led to Mandela’s temporary expulsion from the university.

A new horizon

Upon returning home in 1941, Nelson Mandela learned that the tribe’s leader had arranged a marriage for him. Mandela fled the palace and sought refuge in Johannesburg after realizing that he could not resist the boss’s orders. During the day, he worked as a security guard or shop assistant. Studying by correspondence at the University of South Africa was his way of not neglecting his education.

With excellent grades, Nelson Mandela was admitted to the University of the Witwatersrand in 1943. He faced clear displays of racism from his classmates and professors at the institution due to the fact that he was the only black student there. From this experience, he began his fight against apartheid, which promoted racial segregation. After joining the ANC a few months later, Mandela began his fight against racism.

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Nelson Mandela married Evelyn Ntoko Mase in 1944, and they had four children. Winnie Madikizela was born a year after he divorced Mase. Over the course of almost 40 years, he was married to Madikizela and had two daughters. Mandela married Graca Machel two years after the couple divorced in 1996.

As soon as Nelson Mandela arrived at the ANC, he sought to change the party’s attitude which had been extremely passive in the face of the racist policies of the regime. In 1949, Mandela and other young people began promoting forms of protest. Throughout the country, massive demonstrations, boycotts, displays of civil disobedience, and general strikes followed this new position.

As a result of Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment

Even though the ANC protests were moderately effective, some activists considered them too peaceful. During the early 1960s, Nelson Mandela and the coalition suffered from discontent. Mandela founded Umkhonto we Sizwe after police opened fire on peaceful protesters. Through the implementation of warfare tactics, the armed coalition, also known as the MK, attempted to sabotage the regime.

In 1962, Nelson Mandela called a labor strike that lasted almost three days. A year later, after the havoc caused by the MK, he was sentenced to life in prison. During his years in prison, he endured the most deplorable and adverse conditions, which seriously compromised his health. Although he was imprisoned, the armed struggle did not cease.

A prisoner’s life

Despite being imprisoned, Nelson Mandela remained a symbol of African resistance. In the course of the conflict, he gained support from international organizations that called for his release. Government pressure forced Mandela to be transferred to another facility and tried to negotiate with him. Abolition of apartheid and exponential improvements in civil rights for blacks were the results of the prisoner remaining firm in his conditions.


Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison. In prison, he contracted tuberculosis and was on the verge of death. In spite of this, he continued to study and completed a law degree through correspondence at the University of London.

The outlook for South Africa improved after Frederik Willem de Klerk became president in 1989. Negotiations with Nelson Mandela were begun by De Klerk, who was remarkably less conservative than his predecessor. On February 11, 1990, Mandela was released. Later, the CNA was reactivated and political persecution ceased. Despite this, the negotiations were far from over.

Nelson Mandela, former president

Nelson Mandela faced enormous pressure for the next three years following his release. In spite of the need for constitutional reform, Mandela struggled to maintain a delicate balance between meeting de Klerk’s demands and negotiating peacefully with him. In the end, the deal was sealed and an election was to be held without racial restrictions. The majority of South Africans and the international community expected Mandela to become president on April 27, 1994.

Please note

In 1993, Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk received the Nobel Peace Prize. The award was presented in recognition of both parties’ efforts to restore peace in South Africa. De Klerk became Mandela’s right-hand man after he was elected president.

During Nelson Mandela’s tenure, South African society transitioned to a country with equal opportunities for all. Through the national rugby union team, he united blacks and whites through the shared passion for sports. A huge success, the movement brought together different sectors of society and helped iron out differences. Through a successful development plan, Mandela also revived the country’s economy.

A legacy that will live on

Nelson Mandela announced in 1999 that he would not run for office in the general elections. As part of his charitable activities, he visited various places in South Africa. In 2001, he retired from public life after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Following his treatment and recovery, he returned to the Transkei region to live in peace. After founding The Elders, he brought together various international figures to create positive changes in society.

Nelson Mandela was hospitalized with a lung infection after a brief public appearance during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final. In the midst of his children and wife, he died on December 5, 2013 after undergoing a series of operations. He was recognized throughout the world for his impressive career, and various media outlets wrote about his lasting legacy.

There should be a global reach for Nelson Mandela’s teachings. Our vision of society should remain the same no matter where we go. The idea that no one should be exploited, oppressed, or denied their rights by another should be shared with all of us. Former South African President Jacob Zuma.

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