10 Facts About Nelson MandelaPeople widely regard Nelson Mandela as one of the most influential civil rights figures of all time. His work advocating for social justice, becoming the first black president of South Africa and contributing his philosophy to the world, made Mandela one of the most prominent figures of the 20th century. Here are 10 facts about Nelson Mandela including his life, career and the impact that he continues to have upon millions.

10 Facts About Nelson Mandela

  1. Mandela’s realization came during his traditional African circumcision ritual. During a circumcision ritual to prepare him for manhood, a 16-year-old Nelson Mandela heard his chief describe the “enslavement” the young men faced in South Africa. His chief cited that white men were a major part of the issue of South Africa’s lack of independence. The chief implanted this wisdom in Mandela, which would later lead to his strides to end apartheid in his home country.
  2. Nelson was not Mandela’s true name. Mandela was born as Rolihlahla on July 18, 1918. During his time in primary school, his instructor (Mrs. Mdingane) gave him the name Nelson to follow the custom that students in schools should receive Christian names.
  3. Nelson gave his Inaugural Address of Unity in May 1994. In his Cape Town inaugural address, Mandela spoke heavily of the work that the people of South Africa needed to do in order to defeat racism and apartheid in the country. In his speech, Mandela stated, “We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.” This idea of citizens uniting to make their country a better place formed the basis of his drive for social change.
  4. Mandela studied law. While people widely know Nelson Mandela as a highly influential South African president and civil rights figure, his studies in school reflected a different life path. While in college, Mandela studied law. He then later became one of South Africa’s very first black lawyers.
  5. The Nelson Mandela Foundation launched in 1999 and was his project after leaving office and up to 2004. The organization has many goals, but mainly functions as a public service organization. The organization works to combat the HIV/AIDS virus and promote peaceful negotiations amongst individuals. Additionally, the foundation also improves research in underdeveloped schools and takes on many other important tasks.
  6. Mandela fled from marriage. When Nelson Mandela left the University College of Fort Hare, his village king wavered an arranged marriage. The king wanted Mandela to marry his cousin named Justice. The two decided to flee to Johannesburg in order to avoid the whole ordeal.
  7. Sports inspired Mandela. Nelson Mandela was not only a huge sports fan but someone who used the idea of athletics in order to fuel his campaign for social justice. Mandela stated that sport “has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”
  8. A movie has showcased Mandela’s pacifism. In Spike Lee’s 1992 film, “Malcolm X,” Mandela plays a school teacher, who toward the end of the film, reads aloud the title character’s main speech. Further, Mandela practiced pacifism his entire life. Therefore, when he reached the part of Malcolm X’s speech that states “by any means necessary,” he refused to read that part of it.
  9. The Black Pimpernel. During the struggle against apartheid, Mandela found various ways to disguise himself against South African authorities. One of his many disguises was as a black chauffeur. After the press caught him, the media began to dub Mandela as The Black Pimpernel.
  10. Mandela turned a prison into school. After Nelson Mandela’s incarceration at Robben Island, a joke emerged referring to the prison as the University of Robben Island. This occurred because Mandela fostered his fellow inmates as they learned history and how to read, write and debate political topics. They even received diplomas, which the Mandela signed for each of the inmates.

Nelson Mandela’s contributions to society are the efforts of a civil rights leader in South Africa. His work also serves as a reminder of his dedication to social change; so much so that he sacrificed his own life to strive for it. Accolades aside, people should not only associate Nelson Mandela with what others print and what he or others wrote but also his lasting impact on the rest of the world.

Jacob Nangle
Photo: Flickr