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Your government, which is forcibly imposed on 10,, of its citizens and which is maintained by sheer force and intimidation, must sooner or later give way to a democratic one based upon the will of all the people of South Africa. While in hiding, Mandela published the following open letter to the African people in South African newspapers excerpted. I have chosen this course which is more difficult and which entails more risk and hardship than sitting in jail. I have had to separate myself from my dear wife and children, from my mother and sisters to live as an outlaw in my own land. I have had to close my business, to abandon my profession, and live in poverty, as many of my people are doing….

I shall fight the Government side by side with you, inch by inch, and mile by mile, until victory is won. What are you going to do? Will you come along with us, or are you going to cooperate with the Government in its efforts to suppress the claims and aspirations of your own people? Are you going to remain silent and neutral in a matter of life and death to my people, to our people?

For my own part I have made my choice. I will not leave South Africa, nor will I surrender. Only through hardship, sacrifice and militant action can freedom be won. The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days. A group of men, among them anti-apartheid leader and ANC member Nelson Mandela, after being sentenced to life in prison with their fists still raised in defiance through the barred windows of the prison car.

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Already imprisoned in for leaving the country without a permit, Mandela and several Spear of the Nation conspirators were tried for treason and sabotage at the South African Supreme Court in We first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence; when this form was legislated against, and then the government resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did we decide to answer violence with violence…. I came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic to continue preaching peace and non-violence.

This conclusion was not easily arrived at. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle. I can only say that I felt morally obliged to do what I did.

Nelson Mandela funeral farewell in Qunu

The complaint of Africans, however, is not only that they are poor and the whites are rich, but that the laws which are made by the whites are designed to preserve this situation. There are two ways to break out of poverty. The first is by formal education, and the second is by the worker acquiring a greater skill at his work and thus higher wages. As far as Africans are concerned, both these avenues of advancement are deliberately curtailed by legislation…. During my lifetime… I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. Nelson Mandela in his confinement cell where he had been incarcerated for 27 years for his views in opposition to the apartheid regime. Mandela and his ANC conspirators were sentenced to life in prison. He would serve 27 torturous years, mostly within the walls of the notorious Robben Island prison. He described the inedible food, inhumane living conditions and debasing mistreatment in Long Walk to Freedom.

In general, Coloureds and Indians received a slightly better diet than Africans, but it was not much of a distinction. The authorities liked to say that we received a balanced diet; it was indeed balanced—between the unpalatable and the inedible. Val in! Fall in! Each prisoner was required to have the three buttons of his khaki jacket properly buttoned. We were required to doff our hats as the warder walked by.

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If our buttons were undone, our hats unremoved or our cells untidy, we were charged with a violation of the prison code and punished with either solitary confinement or the loss of meals. After inspection we would work in the courtyard hammering stones until noon. There were no breaks; if we slowed down, the warders would yell at us to speed up. At noon, the bell would clang for lunch and another metal drum of food would be wheeled into the courtyard. For Africans, lunch consisted of boiled mealies, that is, coarse kernels of corn. The Indian and Coloured prisoners received samp, or mealie rice, which consisted of ground mealies in a souplike mixture.

The samp was sometimes served with vegetables whereas our mealies were served straight. Painfully separated from his wife and children, Mandela wrote them letters, trying to keep his family relationships from dimming. To me the portrait aroused mixed feelings. I suspect you intended the picture to convey a special message that no words could ever express. Rest assured I have caught it.

Remember that hope is a powerful weapon even when all else is lost… You are in my thoughts every moment of my life. I have been fairly successful in putting on a mask behind which I have pined for the family, alone, never rushing for the post when it comes until somebody calls out my name. I also never linger after visits although sometimes the urge to do so becomes quite terrible.

I am struggling to suppress my emotions as I write this letter. Mandela was unable to raise his children, but he tried to weigh in on their lives with guidance from his prison cell. In a letter dated November 26, , Mandela advised his daughter Makaziwe on her personal life and professional ambitions. He founded the law firm Mandela and Tambo, partnering with Oliver Tambo , a brilliant student he'd met while attending Fort Hare. The law firm provided free and low-cost legal counsel to unrepresented blacks.

In , Mandela and others were arrested and charged with treason for their political advocacy they were eventually acquitted. Meanwhile, the ANC was being challenged by Africanists, a new breed of black activists who believed that the pacifist method of the ANC was ineffective. Africanists soon broke away to form the Pan-Africanist Congress, which negatively affected the ANC; by , the movement had lost much of its militant support. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, from November until February Formerly committed to nonviolent protest, he began to believe that armed struggle was the only way to achieve change.

In , Mandela co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe, also known as MK, an armed offshoot of the ANC dedicated to sabotage and use guerilla war tactics to end apartheid. In , Mandela orchestrated a three-day national workers' strike. He was arrested for leading the strike the following year and was sentenced to five years in prison. In , Mandela was brought to trial again. This time, he and 10 other ANC leaders were sentenced to life imprisonment for political offenses, including sabotage.

Nelson Mandela Comes to America

Nelson Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island for 18 of his 27 years in prison. During this time, he contracted tuberculosis and, as a black political prisoner, received the lowest level of treatment from prison workers. However, while incarcerated, Mandela was able to earn a Bachelor of Law degree through a University of London correspondence program. A memoir by South African intelligence agent Gordon Winter described a plot by the South African government to arrange for Mandela's escape so as to shoot him during the recapture; the plot was foiled by British intelligence.

Mandela continued to be such a potent symbol of black resistance that a coordinated international campaign for his release was launched, and this international groundswell of support exemplified the power and esteem that Mandela had in the global political community. In , President P. Botha offered Mandela's release in exchange for renouncing armed struggle; the prisoner flatly rejected the offer. With increasing local and international pressure for his release, the government participated in several talks with Mandela over the ensuing years, but no deal was made.

It wasn't until Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced by Frederik Willem de Klerk that Mandela's release was finally announced, on February 11, De Klerk also lifted the ban on the ANC, removed restrictions on political groups and suspended executions. Upon his release from prison, Nelson Mandela immediately urged foreign powers not to reduce their pressure on the South African government for constitutional reform.

While he stated that he was committed to working toward peace, he declared that the ANC's armed struggle would continue until the black majority received the right to vote. In , Mandela was elected president of the African National Congress, with lifelong friend and colleague Oliver Tambo serving as national chairperson.

White South Africans were willing to share power, but many black South Africans wanted a complete transfer of power.

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The negotiations were often strained, and news of violent eruptions, including the assassination of ANC leader Chris Hani, continued throughout the country. Mandela had to keep a delicate balance of political pressure and intense negotiations amid the demonstrations and armed resistance. Due in no small part to the work of Mandela and President de Klerk, negotiations between black and white South Africans prevailed: On April 27, , South Africa held its first democratic elections.

Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the country's first black president on May 10, , at the age of 77, with de Klerk as his first deputy. From until June , President Mandela worked to bring about the transition from minority rule and apartheid to black majority rule. He used the nation's enthusiasm for sports as a pivot point to promote reconciliation between whites and blacks, encouraging black South Africans to support the once-hated national rugby team.

In , South Africa came to the world stage by hosting the Rugby World Cup, which brought further recognition and prestige to the young republic. That year Mandela was also awarded the Order of Merit. During his presidency Mandela also worked to protect South Africa's economy from collapse. Through his Reconstruction and Development Plan, the South African government funded the creation of jobs, housing and basic health care.

In , Mandela signed into law a new constitution for the nation, establishing a strong central government based on majority rule, and guaranteeing both the rights of minorities and the freedom of expression. By the general election, Nelson Mandela had retired from active politics.

He continued to maintain a busy schedule, however, raising money to build schools and clinics in South Africa's rural heartland through his foundation, and serving as a mediator in Burundi's civil war.


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Mandela was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in In June , at the age of 85, he announced his formal retirement from public life and returned to his native village of Qunu. On July 18, , Mandela and wife Graca Machel co-founded The Elders , a group of world leaders aiming to work both publicly and privately to find solutions to some of the world's toughest issues. The Elders' impact has spanned Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and their actions have included promoting peace and women's equality, demanding an end to atrocities, and supporting initiatives to address humanitarian crises and promote democracy.

In addition to advocating for peace and equality on both a national and global scale, in his later years, Mandela remained committed to the fight against AIDS. His son Makgatho died of the disease in Nelson Mandela made his last public appearance at the final match of the World Cup in South Africa in He remained largely out of the spotlight in his later years, choosing to spend much of his time in his childhood community of Qunu, south of Johannesburg. He did, however, visit with U. Barack Obama, while a junior senator from Illinois, also met with Nelson Mandela during his trip to the United States.

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us! Sign up for the Biography newsletter to receive stories about the people who shaped our world and the stories that shaped their lives. Winnie Mandela has died at the age of The longtime wife of South African President Nelson Mandela, she was also known for her political involvement and efforts to combat apartheid, as well as controversial actions that led to convictions for kidnapping and fraud.

Desmond Tutu is a South African Anglican cleric who is known for his role in the opposition to apartheid in South Africa. He died in , from injuries sustained while in police custody. The son of John D. Rockefeller Jr. He was later appointed vice president under President Gerald Ford. Baby Face Nelson was a bank robber and killer in the s and '30s, and a criminal associate of John Dillinger.

Martin Luther King Jr. Willie Nelson walked off stage prior to a performance in North Carolina, prompting concern about his well-being. A representative said the year-old country music legend was feeling the effects of a stomach illness. Actor Judd Nelson has made a career out of playing bad guys and antiheroes. His portrayal of a tough teenager in The Breakfast Club helped him become a star. Oliver Tambo was the acting president of the African National Congress, the South African anti-apartheid political party.

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Tambo served primarily in exile. Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in , serving until A symbol of global peacemaking, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in Biography Newsletter. Mahatma Gandhi. Desmond Tutu.