Nelson Mandela

By: Ann Parke Godwin

Early Life

Nelson Mandela (born Rolihlahla) entered the world on July 18, 1918 in the small village of Mvezo to a chief named Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa. Nelson Mandela (born Rolihlahla) entered the world on July 18, 1918 in the small village of Mvezo to a chief named Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa. The bright young Nelson Mandela completed his Junior Certificate in only 2 years rather than 3 before moving onto the College in Fort Beaufort. While he was at college he took an interest in running and boxing.


Nelson Mandela first went to school at the local Wesley mission school in Transkei, South Africa. When he was sixteen he attended Clarkebury Boarding Institute. Three years later, aged 19, he moved to Healdtown, a Wesley College in Fort Beaufort. He took part in boxing and running at this school. He later attended the University College of Fort Hare, in Alice, Eastern Cape, and later at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. While he was in prison he studied by correspondance at the University of London and he got his law degree in 1989.

Prison Life

In 1964, Nelson Mandela arrived on Robben Island where he would spend 18 of his 27 prison years. Confined to a small cell, the floor his bed, a bucket for a toilet, he was forced to do hard labor in a quarry. He was allowed one visitor a year for 30 minutes. He could write and receive one letter every six months. Through his intelligence, charm and dignified defiance, Mandela eventually bent even the most brutal prison officials to his will, assumed leadership over his jailed friends and became the master of his own prison. He emerged from it the leader who would fight and win the great political battles that would create a new democratic South Africa.

Political Life

South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.


Mandela has been married three times. He was first married to Evelyn Ntoko Mase in 1944. They separated in 1955 and divorced in 1958. She died in 2004. They had two daughters and two sons. Their baby daughter Makaziwe, died at the age of nine months. Their eldest son, Madiba Thembekile (Thembi), was killed at the age of 24, in a car accident in 1969 while Mr Mandela was in prison. He was not allowed to attend the funeral. Their second son, Makgatho Lewanika, died of an AIDS-related illness in 2005. In March 1958 Mr Mandela and his wife divorced. In June 1958 Mandela married Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. They divorced in 1996. On his 80th birthday in 1998 Mr Mandela married Graca Machel who brought two children and two step-children into the marriage.

Noble Peace Price

Mandela received a Nobel Peace Prize “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.” According to the official Nobel Prize website, Madiba is the fifth most popular Nobel Peace Prize winner following Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa, and fifth most popular across all categories.

Other Awards

  • Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award (2006)
  • Philadelphia Liberty Medal presented by Bill Clinton (1993)
  • Freedom of the City of London (1996)
  • Olympic Gold Order (1994)
  • Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought (1988)
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom (2002)
  • Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize (1991)
  • Anne Frank Medal (1994)
  • The Hunger Project’s 8th annual Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger (1994)


Mandela helped to found the African National Congress Youth League in 1944. He also helped in 1961 to establish Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress and was its first Commander-in-Chief. When he was President of South Africa he started the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and donated one-third of his salary every month to the organisation. In 1999 after he stepped down as President he stated the Nelson Mandela Foundation as a post-presidential office and charity to assist in various causes. In 2003 he founded the Mandela Rhodes Foundation to assist post-graduates students from throughout Africa to further their studies. He also established the Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development

Freed From Prison

Mandela, now 71, is freed without conditions, ending 27 and a half years of imprisonment. For Mr. de Klerk, enlisting Mr. Mandela in negotiations over a new constitution seems to be the surest way to achieve his stated goal: to end political domination by the white minority without replacing it with domination by the black majority.


"The government announces that Mr. Mandela has died, leaving the nation without its moral center at a time of growing dissatisfaction with the country’s leaders." said the New York Times. Mandela dies just about a week ago and will be very much misses. He was very appreciated in the world.

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