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One of the most famous symbols of global peace-making is Nelson Mandela. He was the first black president of South Africa and was an advocate of equality. Here are a few facts that you should know about this hero:


His Childhood

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in a quiet, peaceful village called Mvezo in Southern Africa. His great grandfather was a king in the Transkeian territories. His grandfather, named Mandela, was the king’s child by a wife from a different clan; thus, he was unable to inherit the throne, but was treated as a royal all the same.

Nelson Mandela Quotes

Nelson Mandela’s father was Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa Mandela who was a village chief. Because of this, Nelson grew up in the presence of royalties, tribal elders and chiefs. This gave him an insight about his culture and self-government.

Mandela stated that his childhood was deeply influenced by tradition and taboo. He grew up doing chores as a cattle boy and played with other kids. He was sent to a Methodist church where he was christened “Nelson” by his teacher.

He was taken to Mqhekezweni, the Great Place palace, where he was brought up by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the Thembu regent. His mother did not come back for him for a long time, but he was raised well by Jongintaba. He frequently attended church services with his guardians. He fell in love with African history, influenced by the tales he heard from visitors.


His Education

To become a privy councilor to the royal house, Nelson Mandela studied at the Clarkebury Methodist Highschool. By being forced to socialize with other people his age, he lost his so-called “stuck up” attitude. He began to play sports and started gardening. He even became best friends with a girl for the first time. Within two years, he received his Junior Certificate.

Nelson Mandela Quotes

In 1937, Mandela went to Healdtown, a Methodist school attended by most Thembu royalty. He worked on his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1939 with the help of his guardian. He chose the University of Fort Hare, an elite school where he studied English, anthropology and politics. Mandela stayed at the Wesley House dormitory, and made good friends. In his spare time, he took up ballroom dancing, gave Bible classes and performed in drama societies.

Mandela avoided being involved in anti-imperialist movements despite having friends in the African National Congress (ANC). He became an avid supporter of the British war effort. At the end of his first year, he got involved in a boycott initiated by the school’s Supreme Student Council and was suspended. He never came back for his degree.

When he returned to the Great Place palace, his guardian was furious. He ran away to Johannesburg in 1941 and found a job as a writer and a mine security officer. In 1943, he completed his studies in the University of South Africa and travelled back to Fort Hare for his own graduation.

Mandela studied law at the University of Witwatersrand. He was victimized with racism, being the only black African student at the time. He became more politicized as he studied and joined rallies and boycotts.

He joined the ANC and met Anton Lembede in 1943. Lembede disliked the idea of a racially united front against colonialism and was against making an alliance with communists. Mandela agreed with this, believing that the black African community should have an initiative to achieve political self-determination.

In October 1944, Nelson Mandela married Evelyn Mase, a trainee nurse and ANC activist. He loved the home life and welcomed his mother and sibling to stay with him.


His Political Life

When Lambede died, Mandela succeeded his position. He gained a lot of influence and began advocating actions against apartheid, like boycotts and strikes. He led the ANC to a more revolutionary path alongside his colleagues.

He was arrested a couple of times due to his involvement in strikes. He was one of the accused in the Treason Trial where they were detained because of treason against the state. During the trial, he remarried and settled with Winnie Madikizela. However, they divorced in 1996. He went underground when he was acquitted and planned a strike.

Mandela secretly left Africa under the name David Motsamayi. He travelled around Africa to gain the support of more people. He was again arrested for leaving the country and influencing workers to strike. He began serving his five-year sentence; however, his drive to influence people to stand up did not stop. He immersed himself in official talks where he aimed to end the white minority rule.

In 1993, Mandela, together with FW de Klerk, received the Nobel Peace Prize. On May 10, 1994, he was elected as South Africa’s president. He remained an advocate of equality and democracy through the rest of his life. On December 5, 2013, he died in his Johannesburg home.

Nelson Mandela was a person who held true to his ideals until his very death. He’s truly a person to look up to.

Here are a few quotes from Nelson Mandela that will inspire you:

Nelson Mandela Quotes

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” – Nelson Mandela

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.” – Nelson Mandela

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” – Nelson Mandela

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” – Nelson Mandela

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again” – Nelson Mandela

“Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.” – Nelson Mandela

“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” – Nelson Mandela

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” – Nelson Mandela

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” – Nelson Mandela

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” – Nelson Mandela

“I am the captain of my soul.” – Nelson Mandela

“A winner is a dreamer who never gives up” – Nelson Mandela

“Where you stand depends on where you sit.” – Nelson Mandela

“Appearances matter – and remember to smile.” – Nelson Mandela

“One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.” – Nelson Mandela

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” – Nelson Mandela

“Courage is not the absence of fear – it is inspiring others to move beyond it.” – Nelson Mandela

“I have never cared very much for personal prizes. A person does not become a freedom fighter in the hope of winning awards.” – Nelson Mandela

“We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear.” – Nelson Mandela

“Once a person is determined to help themselves, there is nothing that can stop them.” – Nelson Mandela

“You playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” – Nelson Mandela

“Peace is the greatest weapon for development that any person can have.” – Nelson Mandela

“It is music and dancing that make me at peace with the world.” – Nelson Mandela

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

“The greatest glory in living is not in falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela

“And if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.” – Nelson Mandela

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” – Nelson Mandela

“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” – Nelson Mandela

“Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” – Nelson Mandela

“Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.” – Nelson Mandela

“There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to helping others without expecting anything in return.” – Nelson Mandela

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” – Nelson Mandela

“What counts is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela

“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” – Nelson Mandela

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, it is an act of justice.” – Nelson Mandela

“We commit ourselves to the construction of a complete, just, and lasting peace.” – Nelson Mandela

“Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.” – Nelson Mandela

“I never lose. I either win or learn.” – Nelson Mandela

“Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.” – Nelson Mandela

“It is what we make out of what we have given, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” – Nelson Mandela

“While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.” – Nelson Mandela

“If you want the cooperation of humans around you, you must make them feel they are important, and you do that by being genuine and humble.” – Nelson Mandela

“Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

“Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.” – Nelson Mandela

Posted by Igor Ovsyannykov

I'm a digital nomad and entrepreneur bouncing around South East Asia. When I'm not working here, I'm out taking photos for Follow me on Instagram: @igorovsyannykov

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