July 18, 1918-December 5, 2013
It was sad losing Nelson Mandela on December 5 2013 two days after my birthday. Nelson Mandela was a true inspiration to me because he fought to end apartheid and to fight for equal rights for minorities. As being the 1st African to become President of South Africa he had many achievements like improving relations with whites, free healthcare for young children and mothers who were pregnant, and created The Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate victims who had suffered under apartheid and gave pardon to people who told stories about how they were affected by apartheid laws. In 2012 for my African History class at Washtenaw Community College I was proud and was honored to do research and write an essay about Mandela's life and his achievements as President of South Africa and fighting against apartheid.
Nelson Mandela played a big role in South Africa to end segregation and finally put an end to apartheid. Born in a tribe he later began a journey into politics. Nelson fought for ending apartheid and it cost him a long time in prison. In 1999 Mandela was released from prison. He later became the 1st black African president of South Africa.
Nelson was born on July 18 1918. His parents were Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa. His real name was Rolihiahi, but it was changed because his teacher gave him the name Nelson. The schools during Nelson’s childhood was mixed with blacks and whites after the British took over. (Kramer 8-9)
Before Nelson Mandela ran away, he went to Fort Hare University which was a college in South Africa. Mandela studied government and law. Mandela ran away to Joannesburg because his father was setting up an arranged marriage. When Nelson arrived in Joannesburg he went to look for a job. He later met a man named Walter Sisulu. Sisulu helped get Nelson a job working at a law firm called Witkin, Sidlisky, and Eidelman was a white firm. Nelson worked as a clerk at the law firm. Nelson made about 4 dollars working at the firm ( Kramer 30-35).
Apartheid was a big problem in South Africa. Apartheid started in 1948. The government had many laws discriminating against black Africans. In South Africa jobs separated whites from blacks. The Mixed Marriage Act banned marriage between different races. Apartheid also led to separations when using drinking fountains and restrooms. Nelson became active in rights for black Africans and ending apartheid that separated the races. In 1942 he joined the ANC (African National Congress) a campaign to fight against oppression of blacks. (Kramer 38-39)
In 1944 Nelson got married to his first wife Evelyn Mase who was a nurse. They had two sons which were Thembi and Makgatho, and a daughter, who died. Later they were divorced due to Nelson focusing on the campaign to end apartheid.
Nelson was the leader of the ANC and launched a campaign to have volunteers to strike and refuse to buy products from places. He traveled around South Africa to get volunteers to risk themselves by breaking the laws in areas that were designated for whites. However these plans didn’t stop the government’s apartheid. By doing this Nelson faced serious consequences. The consequences were that he could not leave the town Johannesburg and was banned from going to ANC meetings. These consequences made him have to make a choice of going to jail or not if he quit being a leader for the African National Congress. He chose to step down from being the leader of the ANC. After quitting leading the ANC he kept on working to end apartheid secretly with the ANC. The ANC and Nelson worked to have blacks Africans come to meetings to discuss about how they wanted to end racism and how the government should rule. This meeting was called ‘People of Congress’ and it took place in Johannesburg. This meeting resulted in Nelson Mandela getting arrested along with other members of ANC. Nelson and other members were accused by the government of planning to overthrow them. The prosecutors and the government put them on trial. The trial ended because there was no evidence of them planning to overthrow the government. (Porgrund 35-37 and Kramer 40-41)
After trying to use a nonviolent approach to convince the government to end these segregation laws, Nelson decided to create a group called a Spear of a Nation (Umkhonto we Sizwe). The Spear of The Nation was an organization that would cause destruction of property, but no harming of people. The group would aim to destroy power stations and government offices. Nelson and other members of the Spear of Nation would hide out. When Mandela came back from South Africa he was arrested and sent to trial. He was accused of leaving the country and staging attacks on the government. The trial was known as The Rivonia Trial. The trial took place in Pretoria. Nelson gave a speech “I Am Prepared To Die.” In the trial Mandela explained why segregated laws made him fight for his rights and all rights for black Africans. He said, “I have dedicated myself into this struggle for the African people.” At the trial he said, “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society. It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die” ( Kramer 43 45).
After the trial Mandela and other members of the Spear of Nation were sent to a prison which was on Robben Island to face their punishment. They were not getting executed. When Nelson was in prison he had very limited with food and contact with visitors. In the prison Nelson and other prisoners had to break rocks and at other times they were sent to do labor in the hot heat. But Nelson didn’t give up. He fought the prison system to give more rights to prisoners. The rights the prisoners got was having classes to improve their education. Mandela had a cell which was tiny and didn’t have a bed. The prison had schedules like in the early morning the prisoners would clean the jail. Later in the afternoon they would break rocks. Mandela faced many sadness. He lost his mom in 1968 and Tembi, his son with the 1st wife Evelyn, died in an accident. Nelson could not attend both of their funerals. While in prison Nelson wrote about his struggles with apartheid called the “Long Walk To Freedom” (Brown 66-75).
Protests were happening while Nelson was in prison. Another group that campaigned to end apartheid was The Black Consciousness. The Black Consciousness was led by Steve Biko. The group was a movement with ideas that blacks could not depend on the government to give them freedom. Another nation that pressured South Africa to end their racism laws was the United States. They both were allies during the cold war however people in the U.S. began to protest. Companies that did business in South Africa started to not give money to help South Africa’s economy. In South Africa after Steve Biko was killed, many people from different countries started to protest. A man named Oliver Tambo started a campaign to bring Nelson from jail. The government including the prime minister asked Mandela to end violence and then he would be released. This deal didn’t happen Nelson rejected the offer. Zindzi, Nelson’s daughter with Winnie read her father’s reason for rejecting the government’s offer. Mandela stated, “I am not a violent man. Let Botha (the prime minister) renounce violence. Let him say that he will cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care for more freedom. I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people are not free. You freedom and mine cannot be separated. I will return” (Brown 83-91).
F.W. de Klerk was elected to be president of South Africa in 1989. F.W. de Klerk was a member of the National Party that allowed segregation laws. F.W. de Klerk played an important role in ending the government’s apartheid laws that had harmed black African’s rights. As president he released political prisoners that were members of ANC. He also ended the ban on anti- discrimination groups ( Kramer 52-53).
Nelson Mandela was finally freed on Feburary 11, 1990. After he was freed he would continue negotiations with F.W. de Klerk, president of South Africa, to help rebuild the nation and to have equal rights for black Africans. The negotiations resulted in having a constitution which gave rights to black Africans and to have a mix race involved in politics, and also had mixed races vote in elections for the president and the national assembly. Nelson decided to run for the 1994 presidential election and ran on the African National Congress ticket. Mandela traveled around South Africa to campaign. His campaign slogan was “A Better Life for All.” His presidential campaign had spread the message about restoring South Africa to a better life by having health care, improving on education, and creating jobs. In the 1994 election Mandela won the election with 62 percent of the vote. (Brown 106-113)
Mandela was sworn as president on May 10. One of his goals was to improve the relations with whites by having the businesses run by whites stay in the country to stabilize the economy. Healthcare was another thing that happened under Mandela’s presidency. He signed a law which gave young children and mothers that are pregnant free healthcare. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created by Mandela in 1995. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a group that would investigate victims that had suffered through apartheid and had been abused by their laws. Many people told stories about how apartheid had affected them. The commission also pardoned criminals who gave their stories about apartheid. The commission brought out many horrifying stories like Africans were murdered and how the government played a part in the discrimination laws. (Kramer 56-57 and Brown 114-119)
Mandela came from a tribal village. When he went to Johannesburg he experience prejudice by the color of his skin. Nelson never gave up the fight to have rights for black Africans and every South African. Being in jail was a painful experience but he never gave up. Mandela became the first African to be president of South Africa. As President he had many achievements.
Brown, Laaren. Nelson Mandela. New York: DK Publishing, 2006. 66-119. Print.
Kramer, Ann. Mandela The Rebel Who Led His Nation To Freedom. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2005. 8-53. Print.
Pogrund, Benjamin. Nelson Mandela- Leader Against Apartheid: San Diego: BlackBirch Press, 2003. 35-37. Print
“Frontline Chronology The Long Walk Of Nelson Mandela.” Frontline PBS, WGBH.
2012. Web. 1 Apr. 2012.
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