Former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, has been in the news due to a health crisis. However, this monumental figure is used to making headlines. Although his beginnings were humble in a segregated world, he skyrocketed into prominence as a political activist who was imprisoned for his efforts. He set the world on end when he broke South Africa’s color barrier as their first, black president. His life has been eventful and inspirational.
Mandela was born on July 18, 1918. Given the African name, Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela, his first name commonly meant “troublemaker.” How apt for a man who would eventually stir things up in his nation. Mandela would eventually be coined Nelson by a teacher, because African children were required to have a Christian name, and went on to become an educated man. However, it was in college that his political leanings would have him expelled from college. Amazingly enough, he went on to pursue a law degree over the course of his life and earned it at the age of 71.
Over the years,the list of Mandela’s political activities is long.He joined the African National Congress in 1942. Two years later, he formed the ANC African Youth League, encouraging young, black Africans to stand up for themselves. In 1952, he became involved in civil disobedience activity and was sentenced to hard labor. His sentence was suspended. In 1955, he was arrested again for his political activities along with 156 others, eventually to be acquitted. His tireless efforts would not end there. His next phase would involve military training outside the country to lead an armed force as the black workers of the nation went on strike. He was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years of prison. However, after his Sabotage Trial, his sentence was changed to life imprisonment.
Mandela would spend more than 27 years of his life in prison, enduring terrible conditions and hard labor, yet his spirit was never broken. Several times, he was given the opportunity for a release if he would renounce his political stance. He refused every time. When he was finally released, Apartheid was over. In 1994, he was elected president of South Africa, proving how the wheel had turned. He continues to be an inspiration today.
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