Former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela died at his home South Africa after battling numerous illnesses over the past few months. He was 95.
Mandela was born on July 18th, 1918 in the village of Mvezo in Umtatu, which at that time was part of South Africa’s Cape Province. He was born into royalty, being the great-grandson of Thembu King Ngubengcuka. After losing his father at the age of 9, Mandela was entrusted under the guardianship of Thembu Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo. He later attended the University of Fort Hare for one year, but did not complete his degree.
During the 40s, 50s, and 60s he was involved with the African National Congress (ANC), which advocated for racial equality in South Africa. Because of his political activities against the Apartheid regime, Mandela was imprisoned for almost thirty years. During his incarceration Mandela continued to work towards equality and was looked up to by his fellow political prisoners. While imprisoned, he met with foreign dignitaries and the South African government, and was the de facto head of the anti-Apartheid movement even behind bars.
In 1990, with South Africa isolated by international sanctions and under pressure from enemies and allies alike, President F.W. de Klerk ordered the release of Mandela. After his release, he worked with de Klerk to bring about political and economic reforms, culminating in the 1994 general election. The election, first one in South African history with universal suffrage, resulted in Mandela winning the office of the President of South Africa.
Mandela retired from politics in 1999, and continued his political advocacy well into his retirement. Taking on the role of the elder statesmen, Mandela spoke on behalf of human rights across the world and in his native South Africa. He is survived by his wife of 15 years Graça Machel and by his two daughters and his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for. But, my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”-Nelson Mandela, Rivonia Trial 1964