Welcome Back Everyone! New month, new opportunities, and a new Black Sheep of the Month. Now we all know how impactful our past Black Sheep have been, but as we all know, there are many more Black Sheep out there who can live up to that title. Let’s get started with May’s Black Sheep of the month Nelson Mandela.
Known as one of the greatest political leaders of modern times. He was the first black president of South Africa. Serving as the president from 1994 to 1999. The life, achievements, and times of this South African politician would seem to belong to the realm of legend and mythology.
Childhood and Early Life
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa. He belonged to South Africa’s Thembu dynasty. His great grandfather ruled as king to the Thembu people but because of certain rights relating to lineage, none of his descendants were able to inherit the throne. Mandela’s father was the chief of Mvezo and his family stayed involved in the political life. Rolihlahla was the birth name of Nelson Mandela. It means “troublemaker”. When he was nine years old, his father died. Mandela then became a ward of the regent, Jongintaba. From his family, he was the first one to attend school.
Mandela attended Healdtown Methodist Boarding School and then later started a BA degree at Fort Hare. However, he could not complete it. He participated in a student strike as an SRC member which led to him being expelled in 1940. Later, he completed his degree by mail from Johannesburg. He attended the University of the Witwatersrand for an L.L.B. In 1944, Nelson Mandela helped found the ANC Youth League.
Involvement in Politics
The National Party that favored the apartheid policy and racial segregation won the election in 1948. This event encouragedMandela to take action and get involved in politics. In 1952, he led the ANC’s Defiance Campaign and then later in 1955, he led the Congress of the People to support the anti-apartheid movement. In 1956, he was arrested for treason along with many other people but was soon acquitted.
Nelson Mandela took over the ANC’s armed wing in 1961. He was put in prison again in 1962. Originally, he was sentenced to five years in prison. Then, other members of his organization also started getting arrested.
Life in Prison
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison. Most of it was on Robben Island. There, he faced many struggles. He and other prisoners performed daily manual labor and were treated poorly and fed very little. In 1985, Mandela was offered freedom on one condition that he would denounce using violence as a political tactic. He rejected the agreement, saying that he was still a prisoner and hence could not enter into a contract. Furthermore, he was then relocated to Victor Verster Prison. He was imprisoned there until his release in 1990. During his years in prison, many started referring to Mandela as one of the most prominent black leaders of South Africa. A year after his release, he was elected President of the ANC in 1991.
Presidency in South Africa
Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president in 1994. During his presidency, he focused on equalizing the various aspects of economic and social issues between whites and blacks. Apart from this, he increased spending on welfare for the disabled, elderly, children, and mothers. He also worked towards ensuring equality in the workplace and updating South Africa overall (updating educational policies, ensuring better and more health clinics, installing and upgrading phone lines, and more).
Struggles and Challenges
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison because he opposed apartheid laws of South Africa. At that time, political prisoners used to face the worst conditions. Condemned to hard labor, Mandela spent more than a decade breaking rocks in a lime quarry with his fellow activists. He also faced additional challenges because of being black. Black prisoners were fed poorly as compared to Asian/Indian or colored prisoners.
Apart from this, contact with the outside world was basically non-existent. When Mandela was imprisoned, he was allowed one letter and a half-an-hour visit every six months. When his mother passed away in 1968, he was denied permission to attend the funeral. In 1969, he was again denied permission to attend the funeral, this time of his son who died in a car accident. It would be 21 years before he could hold his wife again and his two young daughters had to wait until the age of 16 to see him.
The harsh conditions Nelson Mandela faced in prison were meant to break his resolve, but he refused to give up his efforts to achieve peace and equality for all people. Despite the many struggles and challenges, he continued to act as a leader and mobilized his fellow political inmates. Mandela advocated for improved rights and conditions for all prisoners, no matter the race. Ultimately, inmates were allowed to have a desk in their cells, and to study and read. They also achieved the right to play volleyball, tennis, and soccer. Later, they even created a record club and organized concerts for holidays and events.
After Mandela was released, he helped negotiate an end to apartheid and became the first black president of South Africa.
Most Notable Works
Nelson Mandela is an icon for humanity. Known as the father of modern South Africa, he fought against poverty, racism, and social inequality throughout his life. As the first black president of the country, he fought to end apartheid at the time when black people were segregated from and discriminated against white people in public places. Mandela held honorary degrees from over 50 international universities. He lived a simple life and strived to help humanity. He donated one third of his yearly income to Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. In 1993, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime.
Mandela retired from public life in June 1999. He died on December 5th, 2013. His words “the struggle is my life” should not be taken lightly. After spending nearly three decades of his life in prison, he still led the fight against apartheid with extraordinary resilience and vigor. He has sacrificed his youth and his private life for his people and remains the best known and the most loved hero of South Africa.
Nelson Mandela Black Sheep
We hope you enjoyed this month’s Black Sheep of the month Nelson Mandela. It is not difficult to see why he is our Black Sheep this month. It’s no easy task to spend most of your life in prison to bring about change and equality. Against all odds, he did not buckle under the excuses or circumstances that life had handed him. Instead, he used the opportunities granted and lived up to his purpose in life. Till Next Time! – The Black Sheep