Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95 in Johannesburg as arguably the world’s most revered former statesman. Though decades out of politics, Mandela’s anti-apartheid legacy remains legendary, and surely survives the man. Known in South Africa by his clan name, “Madiba,” Mandela led his country out of white-minority rule in the early 1990s after 27 years in prison.
Assuming leadership of the African National Congress’ (ANC) armed wing in the 1960s, Mandela adopted a revolutionary stance toward the overthrow of the apartheid regime. He was arrested and charged with sabotage in 1964. The punishment was life imprisonment. It became illegal to quote him or publish any photos of Mandela, but messages of guidance were often smuggled out and delivered to the anti-apartheid movement.
By the late 1980s, South Africa, subjected to sustained domestic and international scrutiny, began to move away from strict racial segregation. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, the ANC also began to move away from revolutionary Marxist-Leninism, and looked for other ways toward emancipation. Finally, in 1990, after intense public outcry and activism, Mandela was released. He was immediately received by colossal crowds of admirers.
What followed is widely seen as Mandela’s shepherding of South Africa out of racial inequality and into national reconciliation. This process culminated in the country’s first multiracial elections, which saw Mandela become South Africa’s first non-white president in 1994. For his efforts, Mandela, along with then president F.W. de Klerk, was awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.
Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” By arming ourselves with knowledge, we can follow in the example of Mandela in overcoming the obstacles faced by our community and the wider world at large.