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Nelson Mandela spent 27years in jail for opposing south Africa’s apartheid system. He challenged harsh problems meant to rest his resolve, yet Mandela refused to provide up his initiatives to achieve equality for all people.

Despite the terrible personal cost that imprisonment, Mandela continued to act as a leader and mobilized his other political prisoners. After ~ he to be released, Mandela assisted negotiate an end to apartheid and also became the an initial democratically elected president of south Africa.

This is the story the Nelson Mandela’s journey from sinner to president.


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Mandela, in the 1950s. He operated as a lawyer, providing complimentary or affordable representation to black people who defied apartheid laws.

Photo: Getty Images, Jurgen Schadeberg

Mandela went to prison due to the fact that he opposed southern Africa’s apartheid laws.

Apartheid way “apartness” in the Afrikaans language.Apartheid regulations separated south Africans right into four various racial categories: “white/European,” “black,” “coloured (people of combined race),” or “Indian/Asian.” White world – 15 percent the the south African population – stood in ~ the peak of society, wielding power and also wealth. Black southern Africans – 80 percent that the population – were relegated come the really bottom.

Many southern Africans defied apartheid. Tactics contained civil disobedience campaigns, nationwide strikes and boycotts. Nelson Mandela join this battle in the 1940s together a young lawyer. By the 1950s, he had actually become vital leader in the struggle against apartheid.


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Protestors in a train carriage significant “For europe Only” throughout the Defiance Campaign, 1952. In willful defiance, they organize their thumbs up as a authorize of solidarity.

Photo: Getty Images, Bettmann

The southern African federal government responded to requirements for equality and freedom through repression and violence. Lock shot and killed unarmed demonstrators and also detained and also arrested numerous others.

Defiance that apartheid had started peacefully, but Mandela now thought that equipped struggle was the only method forward. He and also others developed an armed resistance group dubbed Umkhonto weSizwe (“Spear the the Nation”), additionally known as MK. Mandela spent 17 month underground do the efforts to gain support for the armed struggle, but was arrested in 1962. Then, in 1963, Mandela was placed on trial because that a number of charges. He and seven that his colleagues to be sentenced come life in prison.


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Mandela leave the All‐In‐Africa Conference in Pietermaritzburg, 1961. He was a surprise speaker in ~ the conference, whereby he called for a autonomous South Africa.

Photo: Peter Magubane

I have cherished the appropriate of a democratic and complimentary society in which all persons live with each other in harmony and also with equal opportunities. The is perfect which i hope come live for and also achieve. Yet if demands be, it is perfect for which i am prepared to die.

Nelson Mandela, at the Rivonia Trial, 1964


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Mandela meeting with Algerian freedom fighters, Morocco, 1962. While underground, he travelled extensively to meet other african leaders and groups fighting because that liberation.

Photo: UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives
Robben Island, southern Africa, 1995. Prisoners were isolated native the external world, yet could see Cape Town, through its Table Mountain, mere kilometers in the distance.

Photo: Getty Images, Oryx Media Archive, Gallo Images

Mandela and his compatriots were sent out to a maximum defense prison on Robben Island in 1964. There to be no white detainees on Robben Island. Mandela spent 18 that 27years of imprisonment there, organized with the various other political detainees who were retained in a different section.


Mandela mending apparel at Robben Island, 1964. That is wearing shorts due to the fact that black prisoners were not permitted to wear long pants. Mandela and also his fellow political prisoners challenged this rule and also it was eventually changed.

Photo: day-to-day Express London, Cloethe Breytenbach

On Robben Island, prisoners challenged harsh conditions meant to break your resolve. Legal rights were denied based upon people’s skin colour. Black detainees ate an ext poorly than Indian/Asian or coloured (people of blended race) prisoners. Black men were forced to undertake shorts and sandals, also in winter, while other prisoners might wear trousers andshoes.


Mandela mending apparel at Robben Island, 1964. That is put on shorts since black prisoners were not allowed to wear long pants. Mandela and also his fellow political prisoners challenged this rule and it was ultimately changed.

Photo: day-to-day Express London, Cloethe Breytenbach

Political prisoners faced the worst problems of all. Condemned to difficult labour, Mandela and also his fellow activists spent more than a decade breaking rocks in a lime quarry. Some detainees were assaulted and tortured by guards.

Contact v the outside human being was almost fully severed. As soon as Mandela came down on Robben Island, the was permitted one letter and also one 30‐minute visit every six months. He to be denied permission to attend the funeral that his mother, that passed away in 1968, and one of his sons, who died in a vehicle accident in 1969. It would certainly be 21years prior to he can hold his wife, Winnie Mandela, again. His two young daughters, Zeni and also Zindzi, had actually to wait until the period of 16 come seehim.

Glass walls separated detainees from visitors. They talked on phones as guards listened come every word. Letter were greatly censored, through words blacked the end if castle were not strictly personal. After ~ prisoners found ways to review blackened content, censors started cutting out big portions the letters, reduce them come shreds.


Prisoners breaking stones in ~ Robben Island, 1964. Inmates were forced to perform back‐breaking labour. They to be not enabled to talk or song while working.

Photo: everyday Express London, Cloethe Breytenbach

Although these precious letters carry out not with , i shall however keep on make the efforts by composing whenever the is possible…. The is some means of passing on come you mine warmest love and an excellent wishes, and also tends to calm under the shooting pains that hit me whenever ns think the you.

Neslon Mandela native a letter composed to his daughters Zeni and also Zindzi Mandela


Despite your treatment, the prisoners on Robben Island continued to stand up to the apartheid program in thousands ofways.

Mandela and also other prisoners promoted for boosted conditions and rights for every prisoners, nevertheless of race. In 1966, black prisoners secured the right to wear lengthy pants instead of shorts. Eventually, prisoners were permitted to have a desk in their cells, and also to read and study. They also planted a little garden.


A handmade certificate awarded by the Robben Island Amateur strong Association.

Photo: UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives

Prisoners also completed the appropriate to play soccer, tennis and volleyball. Summer gamings were organized at the prison, and also prisoners took pride in arranging the events and also creating intricate programs with limited materials.

Music became another way for prisoners to refer their mutual humanity. They created a document club and also organized concerts for events and also holidays.


A handmade certificate awarded by the Robben Island Amateur strong Association.

Photo: UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives

We concerned the struggle in prison as a microcosm the the struggle as a whole. We would fight inside together we had fought outside. The racism and also repression to be the same; I would simply need to fight on various terms.

Nelson Mandela


Outside the wall surfaces of Mandela’s prison, south Africans continued to stand up to the apartheid regime. In 1985, under raising pressure, the government made an market to relax Mandela, on problem he renounce violence together a political tool. Mandela rejected the offer. His youngest daughter, Zindzi Mandela, read his response at a massive rally in Soweto:


Mandela’s youngest daughter moving her father’s an answer to an offer of conditional release at a rally, Soweto, 1985. Mandela rubbish this market with powerful words.

Photo: linked Press, Peters

“What flexibility am ns being readily available while the company of the civilization remains banned? What freedom am i being offered when I might be arrested ~ above a happen offence? What flexibility am i being available to live mine life together a family with my dear mam who continues to be in banishment in Brandfort? What flexibility am ns being readily available when I have to ask for permission come live in an city area? What liberty am ns being readily available when I require a stamp in my pass to look for work? What liberty am ns being available when my an extremely South african citizenship is no respected? <…> her freedom and also mine can not be separated. I will certainly return.”


Mandela’s youngest daughter transferring her father’s an answer to an offer of conditional release at a rally, Soweto, 1985. Mandela garbage this sell with powerful words.

Photo: linked Press, Peters

Mandela to be committed come achieving flexibility for all southern Africans, not simply for himself. In 1986, he began to quietly reach out to the southern African federal government to watch if over there was attention in negotiating an finish to apartheid.

Four year later, top top February 11, 1990, the most famed political prisoner in the civilization was released. He to be 71years old, but there to be still occupational to do. Year of fraught negotiations complied with the end of Mandela’s imprisonment. Throughout this period, political violence and civil war threatened to engulf the country.

In 1993, southern Africa embraced an interim constitution. This paved the method for the country’s an initial democratic elections. That exact same year, the Nobel tranquility Prize to be jointly awarded to Mandela and also South african President F. W. DeKlerk.

South Africa’s first democratic elections were organized in 1994. As soon as all the ballots to be counted, Nelson Mandela had become the country’s very first democratically chosen president. Mandela would dedicate the continuing to be years of his life to transforming his country. He constantly acknowledged the there to be still more to do – and that it was as much as future generations to continue the battle for freedom.


South afri lining as much as vote, 1994. People waited for hrs in an extensive lines because that the possibility to actors their ballot. Most had actually never before been allowed tovote.

Photo: Getty Images, Gallo Images, Raymond Preston
Nelson Mandela voting, 1994. Mandela ended up being the first democratically chosen president of south Africa at the period of75.

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Photo: Getty Images, Peter Turnley

The fact is that we are not however free; we have actually merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have actually not bring away the last step of ours journey, yet the very first step on a longer and also even more challenging road. For to be totally free is not simply to actors off one’s chains, however to live in a means that respects and also enhances the flexibility of others. The true test of our devotion to flexibility is simply beginning.

Nelson Mandela


Poll: Mandela thought that each of us has the strength to make change. Where do you think you deserve to have the strongest affect promoting equality?

pick answer because that poll question: Mandela thought that each of us has the strength to make change. Where execute you think you have the right to have the strongest affect promoting equality?