Nelson Mandela

Biography of Nelson Mandela | The Man Who Changed the World

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Last Updated on 3 June 2023 by Biographybliss Team

Nelson Mandela was a revolutionary leader who fought against South Africa’s apartheid regime, racial segregation, and inequality. Nicknamed ‘Madiba‘, he spent 27 years of his life in jail as a political prisoner for his beliefs and actions.

Despite the odds, Mandela’s spirit never broke, and upon his release, he continued fighting for justice and equal rights for all black South Africans.

In 1994, he became South Africa’s first black president and spent the rest of his life fighting to improve the lives of his fellow citizens.

Mandela remains an iconic figure in the fight for human rights globally, and his legacy lives on in the work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Full Name Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
Date of Birth July 18, 1918
Date of Death December 5, 2013
Cause of Death Prolonged respiratory infection
Age 95 years
Nelson Mandela spouse(s)
  1. Evelyn Ntoko Mase (m. 1944; div. 1958)​
  2. Winnie Madikizela (m. 1958; div. 1996)
  3. Graça Machel ​(m. 1998)

Impact of Mandela on the World

Nelson Mandela’s impact on the world cannot be overstated. As a leader and activist, he inspired millions of people around the globe to fight for racial equality and social justice.

His work helped to change the course of South Africa’s history, ending decades of apartheid and paving the way for a more inclusive and democratic society.

Mandela’s activism began early in his life when he joined the African National Congress (ANC) and began speaking out against racial segregation.

He was imprisoned for 27 years, first on Robben Island and then in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison, where he continued to work with the ANC and other anti-apartheid activists.

His release in 1990 was a significant moment in South African history and marked the beginning of Mandela’s role as a leading force in the fight against apartheid.

As the first black president of South Africa, Mandela worked tirelessly to dismantle the apartheid regime and establish a more just and equitable society.

He oversaw the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which sought to address the atrocities committed during apartheid and promote healing and reconciliation.

Under his leadership, South Africa made significant strides in fighting poverty and inequality, increasing access to healthcare and education, and promoting economic development.

Mandela’s impact went far beyond the borders of South Africa. He became an international symbol of resistance to racial segregation and oppression, inspiring countless activists and leaders around the world to fight for social justice.

His influence can be seen in movements such as Black Lives Matter, which continues to fight against systemic racism and police brutality.

Mandela’s legacy continues to inspire and guide social justice movements and political leaders in the 21st century.

He remains a powerful symbol of hope and resilience, a reminder that positive change is possible when people work together towards a common goal. His impact on the world will be felt for generations to come.

Early Life and Education

Nelson Mandela was born as Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918, in Mvezo, a small village in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

His father was a chief and a counselor to the Thembu king, and Mandela was the youngest of his four children.

He attended mission schools and later enrolled at the University of Fort Hare, where he was expelled for participating in a student protest.

Despite facing challenges, Mandela continued his education, eventually earning a law degree from the University of Witwatersrand and becoming the first black lawyer to work for a leading Johannesburg firm.

Birth and Family Background

Nelson Mandela, born on July 18, 1918, was born into the royal family of the Madiba clan of the Xhosa-speaking Tembu people.

His father, Chief Henry Mandela, was the chief of the village of Mvezo, and his mother, Nosekeni Fanny, was the third of his father’s four wives.

Mandela had two older sisters and three younger brothers who unfortunately passed away at a young age.

Early in his life, Mandela was given the name ‘Rolihlahla,’ meaning ‘troublemaker.’ He grew up in a traditional environment with his family, which included tending cattle and attending tribal ceremonies.

Unfortunately, when Mandela was nine years old, his father passed away from an illness, and he was then adopted by Jongintaba, the regent of the Tembu people, after his father’s death.

Under Jongintaba’s guidance, Mandela received his early education from a missionary primary school where he was given the name ‘Nelson’ by his teacher. As Mandela grew up, he became interested in the world of politics.

Later, Mandela attended South African Native College, where he was exposed to the contradictions of South African society, particularly the racial segregation that was enforced by the government.

He then later studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where he became involved in the anti-apartheid movement.

Education in South Africa

Education is an essential element in the development of any country, and South Africa is no exception.

The country has made significant strides in improving education access for all citizens since the end of apartheid in 1994. However, the education system still faces a plethora of challenges, particularly in rural areas and impoverished communities.

One of the major challenges facing education in South Africa is the high rate of illiteracy among adults. This is linked to the lack of access to quality education in the past due to racial segregation, economic inequality, and poor governance.

The government has recognized this issue and has made efforts to provide adult education programs to improve literacy rates.

Another significant challenge in the education system is the lack of resources and inadequate infrastructure in many schools.

There is a shortage of qualified teachers, especially in subjects like mathematics and science. This shortage is particularly prominent in rural areas, where recruitment and retention of teachers are difficult due to poor living conditions.

Additionally, despite efforts to reduce fees and increase access to education, a lack of financial resources still prevents many South Africans from obtaining higher education. This creates a significant gap between the educated and uneducated, resulting in challenges such as high unemployment rates and limited economic growth.

Despite the challenges, there are also successes in the education system of South Africa. The country has some of the best universities in Africa, such as the University of Cape Town and the University of Witwatersrand. South African students have been recognized for achieving excellent results in international education assessments like PISA.

In conclusion, while South Africa has had some successes in education, there are still many challenges to overcome. To achieve better outcomes, the country requires greater investment in education, infrastructure, and quality teachers. By addressing these challenges, South Africa can provide all its citizens with the opportunity to prosper and contribute to the country’s development.

Leadership Role in South Africa

South Africa has a complex history that is characterized by racial inequality and segregation. As the country fought to overcome these issues, inspiring leaders emerged to take on the challenge.

In this article, we will explore the crucial leadership role played in South Africa’s journey towards a better future. We will examine the impact of individuals such as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Thabo Mbeki on the country’s political and social landscape.

African National Congress

Nelson Mandela’s life was closely intertwined with the history and actions of the African National Congress (ANC), a black liberation movement founded in South Africa in 1912.

The ANC played a major role in dismantling apartheid in the country, and Mandela was one of its most significant leaders.

Throughout its history, the ANC was dedicated to fighting for the rights of black South Africans who were subject to apartheid, a system of racial segregation and discrimination enforced by the white minority government.

The ANC engaged in various forms of protest and resistance, including peaceful protests, boycotts, and civil disobedience. However, as the apartheid government became more oppressive, the ANC eventually transitioned to armed struggle in the 1960s.

During this time, Mandela was a key figure in the ANC, leading the armed resistance against the apartheid regime. However, he was eventually captured by the government and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Despite his incarceration, Mandela continued to be an influential leader within the ANC, and his imprisonment only strengthened the organization’s resolve to dismantle apartheid.

Oliver Tambo was another influential leader within the ANC during this time, taking over leadership of the organization while Mandela was in prison.

Tambo worked to build international support for the anti-apartheid movement and played a significant role in pushing for economic sanctions against South Africa.

By the 1980s, the ANC had become a prominent force against the apartheid government, with protests intensifying both domestically and internationally.

Thabo Mbeki also emerged as a key figure in the organization during this time, working closely with Mandela and serving as his deputy when Mandela was eventually released from prison in 1990.

The ANC played a pivotal role in the eventual downfall of apartheid, and Mandela’s leadership within the organization was instrumental in achieving this important victory.

Today, the ANC remains a prominent political party in South Africa, and its history continues to be a powerful reminder of the importance of fighting for justice and equality.

Dismantling Apartheid Regime

Dismantling the apartheid regime in South Africa was a long and difficult struggle, but it was ultimately achieved through the tireless efforts of many individuals and organizations.

One of the key figures in this struggle was Nelson Mandela, who devoted his life to fighting for racial equality and justice.

Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists recognized that peaceful protests and civil disobedience were not enough to bring about significant change in South Africa.

They knew that they needed to take more drastic measures to challenge the apartheid government’s authority and force them to reconsider their policies.

As a result, the African National Congress (ANC) transitioned to armed struggle in the 1960s, with Mandela taking on a leadership role in the organization’s military wing.

The ANC engaged in acts of sabotage and guerrilla warfare, targeting strategic government installations and infrastructure in order to disrupt the apartheid regime’s control.

However, Mandela and his colleagues were eventually arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment, leaving the struggle against apartheid in the hands of other leaders within the ANC.

Among these leaders was Oliver Tambo, who worked tirelessly to build international support for the anti-apartheid movement and pushed for economic sanctions against South Africa.

As the years passed, public opposition to apartheid grew stronger both within South Africa and around the world.

Protests, boycotts, and other forms of civil disobedience became more common, and eventually, the international community began to put increasing pressure on the South African government to change its policies.

Finally, after decades of struggle and sacrifice, the apartheid regime was dismantled in the early 1990s. This was due in no small part to the efforts of Mandela and other anti-apartheid leaders who dedicated their lives to fighting for justice and equality.

Today, South Africa is a vastly different country than it was under the apartheid regime, with a democratically-elected government that represents the entire population.

Mandela’s legacy lives on through the policies and institutions that he helped to establish, and his contributions to the struggle against apartheid will continue to inspire future generations.

Implementing Reconstruction Programs

Implementing reconstruction programs is a crucial step toward rebuilding communities that have been devastated by war, natural disasters, or other forms of crises. These programs are meant to help affected communities to recover from the damage done to their homes, infrastructure, and basic services.

Reconstruction programs involve a range of activities such as repairing damaged buildings and infrastructure, restoring power and water supply, clearing debris, and rebuilding public services such as schools and hospitals. They require significant funding and resources, as well as careful planning and coordination between local and international organizations.

One critical component of reconstruction programs is community engagement. It is essential to involve the affected communities in the planning and implementation of these programs to ensure that their needs and priorities are taken into account.

This helps to build trust and support for these programs, empowering communities to take charge of their own recovery and rebuilding processes.

Another important aspect of reconstruction programs is ensuring sustainability. Projects must be designed and carried out in a way that promotes long-term resilience, economic growth, and social stability.

For example, rebuilding homes must take into account climate change and natural hazards to ensure that they are resilient against future disasters.

In many cases, international aid and support are necessary to implement reconstruction programs successfully. International organizations such as the United Nations and non-governmental organizations play critical roles in providing technical assistance, funding, and expertise to affected communities.

For example, they may provide training and guidance on building techniques and disaster preparedness, as well as financial and material support.

In conclusion, implementing reconstruction programs is a critical step toward helping communities recover from disasters and crises.

It requires careful planning, coordination, and collaboration with local and international organizations, and most importantly, a deep commitment to supporting affected communities in their recovery and rebuilding efforts.

By working together, we can help communities rebuild their homes and lives, and create a more sustainable and resilient future for all.


Imprisonment is a difficult experience that can have long-lasting effects on a person’s life. For many individuals, being incarcerated means being separated from loved ones, losing one’s job, and missing out on important life events. However, for some, it can also be an opportunity for reflection and growth.

Nelson Mandela was one such individual. He spent 27 years in prison, first on Robben Island and later in Pollsmoor and Victor Verster prisons.

Mandela’s imprisonment was a result of his opposition to the apartheid regime in South Africa, which sought to enforce racial segregation and suppress the rights of black South Africans.

During his time in prison, Mandela continued to fight against the injustices of the apartheid government. He and other political prisoners fought for better living conditions and access to education, among other things.

Mandela also spent his time reading and studying, refining his political philosophy and developing strategies for the struggle against apartheid.

Finally, in 1990, after years of international pressure and negotiations with the apartheid government, Mandela was released from prison. His release marked a turning point in the fight against apartheid and a new beginning for South Africa.

After his release, Mandela became a symbol of hope and reconciliation for South Africans and people around the world. He worked tirelessly to bring about an end to apartheid and to promote democracy and human rights.

His leadership helped to guide South Africa through a difficult transition and set an example for others working for social justice worldwide.

In conclusion, imprisonment can be a challenging and difficult experience, but it can also be an opportunity for reflection and growth.

Mandela’s story is a testament to the power of resilience and the human capacity for change. His life and legacy remind us that even in the darkest of circumstances, hope can prevail and change can happen.

Arrest and Sentencing to Life Imprisonment

Nelson Mandela’s opposition to the apartheid regime in South Africa would ultimately lead to his arrest and sentencing to life imprisonment.

Mandela was a black leader who believed in the equal rights of all South Africans regardless of race. His political activism would lead him to become a key player in the struggle against apartheid in the 20th century.

In 1962, Mandela was arrested and charged with sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but his sentence was later changed to life imprisonment in 1964. Mandela was sent to the notorious Robben Island prison, where he spent the next 18 years of his life.

Life imprisonment was not an easy sentence for Mandela, who was separated from his family and loved ones, but he remained committed to the struggle against apartheid.

He and other political prisoners fought for better living conditions and access to education, among other things. Mandela also spent his time reading and studying, refining his political philosophy, and developing strategies for the struggle against apartheid.

Mandela’s imprisonment was a testament to his commitment to justice and equality for all South Africans. He continued to be a thorn in the side of the apartheid government, even from behind bars.

The international community rallied around Mandela and the struggle for justice in South Africa, putting pressure on the apartheid regime to release him and end the oppressive system of racial segregation.

In 1990, after years of international pressure and negotiations with the apartheid government, Mandela was finally released from prison.

His release marked a turning point in the fight against apartheid and a new beginning for South Africa.

Mandela’s leadership and dedication to the struggle against oppression would continue to inspire people around the world for years to come.

Time Spent at Robben Island & Pollsmoor Prison

Nelson Mandela spent a significant portion of his life imprisoned at Robben Island and later Pollsmoor prison. His time spent there shaped not only his political ideology but also his personal character.

Robben Island is a small island off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, which housed a maximum-security prison during the apartheid era. It was here that Mandela, along with many other anti-apartheid activists, spent over 18 years of his life.

Conditions on the island were harsh and inmates were subjected to intense physical and psychological abuse. Despite this, Mandela remained committed to the struggle against apartheid.

He and his fellow prisoners formed a tight-knit community and even continued to study and educate themselves, despite limited access to books and resources.

In 1982, Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town, where he spent the remainder of his sentence. Unlike Robben Island, Pollsmoor was a less harsh prison with better living conditions.

This allowed Mandela to have more frequent visits from family and friends, and he was even able to continue his studies through correspondence courses provided by the University of London.

Despite improved conditions, life at Pollsmoor was still incredibly challenging for Mandela. He was separated from his family, including his wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and he missed out on many important events such as the birth of his grandchildren.

Nevertheless, Mandela maintained his commitment to the struggle and used his time in prison to continue to plan and strategize for the anti-apartheid movement.

It was not until 1990 that Mandela was finally released from prison, after serving 27 years. His release marked the beginning of a new era for South Africa, as the country transitioned away from apartheid and towards a more inclusive democracy.

The time Mandela spent imprisoned at Robben Island and Pollsmoor prison shaped him into the remarkable leader he became, and his unwavering commitment to justice and equality will continue to inspire generations to come.

Release from Prison by F.W. de Klerk

In 1990, after over 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela was finally released from Victor Verster prison.

His release was a significant moment not just for South Africa but for the entire world. Mandela had become a symbol of hope and resistance against apartheid, inspiring countless people around the globe.

The decision to release Mandela was made by South African President F.W. de Klerk. De Klerk had come to power in 1989 and had promised to work towards ending apartheid.

Releasing Mandela was a major step towards achieving this goal, as it signaled a willingness to engage with the anti-apartheid movement and move toward reconciliation.

The process of negotiating Mandela’s release was not easy. It required a delicate balance of political maneuvering and public pressure.

De Klerk faced opposition from hardline members of his own party, who saw Mandela as a dangerous radical. However, he was able to rally enough support to push through with the release.

On the day of Mandela’s release, crowds of people gathered outside the prison to catch a glimpse of the man who had become a symbol of hope. Mandela emerged from the prison gates, walking hand in hand with his wife Winnie.

The sight of Mandela walking free was a powerful symbol of change, and it marked the beginning of a new era for South Africa.

De Klerk and Mandela would go on to work together to negotiate the end of apartheid and the transition to a democratic government.

Mandela would become South Africa’s first black president, and the country would finally leave behind the brutal system of racial segregation that had plagued it for so long.

The release of Nelson Mandela was a pivotal moment in the history of South Africa. It represented a turning point in the struggle against apartheid, and it showed the power of political will in the face of injustice.

Mandela’s courage and perseverance had inspired a nation and a movement, and his release was a testament to the power of hope and determination.

Nelson Mandela Foundation & Post-Prison Work

After serving 27 years in prison for his role in the anti-apartheid movement, Nelson Mandela emerged as a political leader and icon for human rights.

He founded the Nelson Mandela Foundation in 1999, with the goal of building a society that reflects the values for which he fought.

The Foundation is dedicated to promoting social justice and human rights, preserving Mandela’s legacy, and continuing the work that he began.

One of the key areas of focus for the Foundation is education. Mandela believed that education was the key to unlocking the potential of young people and empowering them to build a better future for themselves and their communities.

The Foundation has established educational and leadership programs to support the development of young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Foundation also works to promote health and wellness in South Africa. Mandela was passionate about improving access to healthcare and combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the Foundation continues his work in this area.

The Foundation advocates for access to healthcare services, provides information and resources about HIV prevention and treatment, and supports initiatives that promote healthy lifestyles.

In addition to its work in education and healthcare, the Foundation is involved in a range of initiatives that promote social justice and human rights.

It provides support to community-based organizations that are working to address issues such as poverty, inequality, and discrimination.

It also supports initiatives that promote peace and reconciliation, including efforts to address the legacy of apartheid and to promote intercultural understanding and dialogue.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation is a testament to the power of one individual to inspire change and make a difference in the world.

Mandela’s legacy continues to inspire millions around the world, and the work of the Foundation serves as a reminder of the importance of promoting social justice, human rights, and a more equitable society.

Through its programs and initiatives, the Foundation is carrying forward the vision and values of Nelson Mandela and working to build a better future for all South Africans.

Establishing the Nelson Mandela Foundation

Establishing the Nelson Mandela Foundation was an important step in preserving the legacy of one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century.

The Foundation was established in 1999, just a few years after Mandela was released from prison and became the first black President of South Africa.

The Foundation was founded with the mission of promoting Mandela’s vision of a just and equitable society. This vision was based on the principles of democracy, human rights, and social justice.

Mandela was a firm believer in the power of education and leadership development, and the Foundation has been committed to furthering these goals.

One of the key objectives of the Foundation is to preserve and share Mandela’s legacy with future generations.

This includes, among other things, preserving his papers and other materials, promoting his writings and speeches, and supporting research and scholarship about his life and work.

In addition to its educational and archival work, the Foundation is also deeply committed to promoting social justice and human rights.

This work includes advocacy for the rights of women and children, supporting the development of grassroots organizations, and promoting health and wellness in communities facing significant challenges.

The Foundation has achieved numerous milestones over the years. In 2003, it established the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, which serves as a hub for research, education, and public engagement.

In 2005, the Foundation launched the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, which has become one of the most important events on the global human rights calendar.

Today, the Foundation is an influential voice on issues ranging from racial and economic inequality to democracy and human rights more broadly.

Its work has touched the lives of millions of people in South Africa and beyond, and it continues to be an important force for positive change in the world.


Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918.

He was born in Mvezo, a small village in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

Nelson Mandela is famous for his unwavering commitment to fighting against apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination enforced by the South African government. He became a symbol of resistance and freedom, inspiring millions around the world.

Nelson Mandela played a pivotal role in the fight against apartheid. He joined the African National Congress (ANC) and became heavily involved in the anti-apartheid movement. He co-founded the ANC Youth League and organized various acts of civil disobedience, protests, and strikes against discriminatory laws.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for a total of 27 years. He was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for his anti-apartheid activities and his advocacy for armed resistance against the apartheid regime. He was charged with sabotage, conspiracy to overthrow the government, and other related offenses.

Nelson Mandela was released from prison on February 11, 1990. His release marked a significant turning point in South Africa's history and paved the way for negotiations to end apartheid.

After his release, Nelson Mandela played a crucial role in negotiating the end of apartheid and the transition to democracy in South Africa. He became the president of the ANC and engaged in talks with the government to dismantle apartheid and establish a non-racial democratic system.

Yes, Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. In 1994, he led the ANC to victory in the country's first non-racial elections and assumed the presidency on May 10, 1994.

Nelson Mandela served as the President of South Africa for one term. He voluntarily stepped down after serving a single five-year term from 1994 to 1999.

As president, Nelson Mandela focused on reconciliation, nation-building, and social justice. He established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address human rights abuses committed during apartheid and promote healing and forgiveness. He also prioritized education, healthcare, and housing, striving to improve the lives of all South Africans.

Nelson Mandela played a significant role in promoting reconciliation and national unity. He emphasized forgiveness and encouraged South Africans of all races to work together to overcome the divisions of the past. Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he sought to provide a platform for victims and perpetrators of human rights abuses to share their stories and achieve closure.

Yes, Nelson Mandela received numerous international honors and awards for his contributions to peace and human rights. These include the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, the Bharat Ratna (India's highest civilian award) in 1990, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (United States) in 2002, and the Order of Canada, among many others.

Nelson Mandela believed in inclusive and compassionate leadership. His philosophy was based on principles of equality, justice, reconciliation, and non-violence. He believed in the power of dialogue, negotiation, and forgiveness to bring about positive change and transform societies.

Yes, Nelson Mandela wrote several books. His autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom," published in 1994, provides a comprehensive account of his life and the struggle against apartheid. He also wrote "Conversations with Myself," "The Struggle Is My Life," and "Dare Not Linger," among others.

Nelson Mandela's legacy is profound and far-reaching. He is remembered as a global icon of peace, justice, and reconciliation. His steadfast commitment to equality, human rights, and democracy continues to inspire people around the world. His legacy serves as a reminder of the power of forgiveness and the importance of fighting for social justice.

Yes, there are several museums and monuments dedicated to Nelson Mandela. The Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu, South Africa, showcases his life and legacy. The Nelson Mandela Capture Site, near Howick in South Africa, commemorates the spot where he was arrested in 1962. Additionally, many cities worldwide have named streets, buildings, and public spaces in his honor.

Nelson Mandela is remembered and celebrated as a hero and visionary. His birthday, July 18, is recognized globally as Mandela Day, a day dedicated to community service and making a positive impact. People continue to draw inspiration from his leadership, courage, and commitment to social justice. His values and principles continue to resonate, guiding future generations in the pursuit of a more equitable and inclusive world.


In conclusion, Nelson Mandela was a remarkable figure who changed the world in countless ways. He dedicated his life to the fight against apartheid and made significant contributions to the struggle for social justice and human rights. Mandela’s legacy lives on through his writings and speeches, as well as the institutions and organizations that he helped to establish.

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