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Last week prayers and well-wishes flooded the South African hospital where Nelson Mandela is hospitalized with a persistent lung infection. Mandela, now 94, has dedicated his life to end apartheid and to nurture racial reconciliation in South Africa. Like Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., Mandela is considered the leader of a movement and is often described as the Father of South Africa’s democracy. Discover more about Nelson Mandela’s life and what makes him unique in all the world.
The State of Being Apart
To appreciate Nelson Mandela’s accomplishments and importance, you must consider the historical context. Nelson Mandela’s legacy is intertwined with the South African policy of apartheid, which means ‘the state of being apart’ in Afrikaans. It was the system of racial segregation used by the ruling National Party from 1948 through 1994. For a personal account of South Africa’s struggle with apartheid, view the trailer to the film Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela, and two clips: Living Under Apartheid, and Non-violent Protest Against Apartheid.
How was apartheid able to take hold? To answer this, it helps to understand the legislation that legalized and strengthened apartheid policies. Step back in time with Timeglider.org and see how apartheid developed in South Africa. Move your icon directly over the screen and scroll back to The Native Representation Act (1936). Double click on a timeline entry to read more and to follow links to other sites. Use the ‘next’ key to move into the future to see how apartheid developed and how the movement against it mobilized.
A Man for All People
For an overview of Nelson Mandela’s life, watch a brief documentary about his life story at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. Mandela’s life has taken many turns, from crusader to prisoner to President. Listen to Mandela and others reflect on and share memories of Mandela’s life and the times in the MandelaHistory.org’s audio timeline. Return to the Mandela Centre of Memory and read a complete biography. Watch Mandela’s first television interview, recorded in 1961.
Nelson Mandela spent years fighting for equality and democracy, and then as a prisoner. Learn about Nelson Mandela, the revolutionary. Select a few features to read and share with others. Next, learn about Mandela, the prisoner. Read excerpts of letters to his wife, Winnie; a section of his autobiography about his imprisonment at Robben Island; an interview with his warder, Christo Brand; and interviews with other political prisoners.
When Nelson Mandela was released from jail after 27 years, many South Africans rejoiced and the world was transfixed. Watch the BBC coverage of the day Mandela was freed from prison. For a glimpse into Mandela’s life and work after he was released from jail, view the interactive timeline, 1993-1998: Negotiating for Democracy. Read a selection of letters written to President de Klerk. Fast forward to 1994 and watch the BBC coverage of the day Mandela was inaugurated President.
Although Nelson Mandela is now retired from public life, he continues to support causes that are most meaningful to him, including those involving education and children. He is known for his work on behalf of children, and for singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to children. Listen to him croon the lullaby and read a selection of Mandela quotes. Explain which quote resonates most with you.
Recognizing His Legacy
Over the years, Mandela has been recognized by numerous institutions and governments for his service to South Africa and his dedication to both equality and reconciliation. In 1993, Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, the last apartheid-era President of South Africa, were co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Read the award presentation speech and discover why the Nobel committee chose to recognize Mandela and de Klerk together. Watch Mandela give his acceptance speech. If you are interested in learning more about who and what inspired Nelson Mandela’s beliefs, read the article Nelson Mandela and the Rainbow of Culture.
The United States Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award bestowed by the United States Congress upon a private citizen. The award is given to those "who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement." Honorees need not be American citizens. In 1998, Nelson Mandela was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal. Watch his acceptance speech. How does Nelson Mandela fulfill the requirements of this award?
At 94, Nelson Mandela’s scope and pace may be slower than it once was. However, many people share his hope for a more democratic, peaceful world and are inspired by all that he has achieved. July 18, Nelson Mandela International Day, is a day to recognize Nelson Mandela, his vision, and our ability to make the world a better place. If you live near New York City, consider joining their events. Or, consider the list of 67 Ways to Change the World, then pick one and make your neck of the woods a better place.