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Nelson Mandela

Political Leader

Born: 18 July 1918
Died: 5 December 2013
Birthplace: Umtata, Transkei
Best known as:

The first black president of South Africa

Name at birth: Rolihlahla Mandela

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years as a political prisoner in South Africa before becoming, an a remarkable twist, the country's first black president. Nelson Mandela was a leading member of the African National Congress (ANC), which opposed South Africa's white minority government and its policy of racial separation, known as apartheid. The government outlawed the ANC in 1960. Mandela was captured and jailed in 1962, and in 1964 he was convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison. He began serving the sentence as prisoner number 46664 on Robben Island, near Cape Town, but instead of disappearing from view, Mandela became a prison-bound martyr and worldwide symbol of resistance to racism. South African President F.W. de Klerk finally lifted the ban on the ANC and released Mandela in 1990. Nelson Mandela used his stature to help dismantle apartheid and form a new multi-racial democracy, and he and de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Nelson Mandela was elected the country's president in 1994. He served until 1999, when he was succeeded by his deputy Thabo Mbeki. Mandela remained a celebrated figure in South Africa and throughout the world until his death in 2013. His autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, was published in 1994.

Extra credit:

Nelson Mandela was also called 'Madiba,' a nickname taken from his clan... He said in Long Walk to Freedom that he was given the English name "Nelson" by his teacher on his first day at school... Nelson Mandela was married three times: to the former Evelyn Mase from 1944 to 1957, to Winnie Madikizela from 1958 to 1996, and to Graca Machel from 1998 until his death in 2013... Nelson Mandela's wife Winnie became a powerful figure in her own right while Mandela was imprisoned; however, her entanglement in a series of scandals led to the couple's estrangement in 1992, her dismissal from his cabinet in 1995, and their official divorce in 1996... Nelson Mandela has been played in the movies by Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, 2013), Morgan Freeman (Invictus, 2009), Sidney Poitier (Mandela and de Klerk, 1997), and Danny Glover (Mandela, 1987).

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