Nelson Mandela was Released from Prison

Nelson Mandela was the leader of the movement to end apartheid in South Africa. South Africa was once part of the British Empire, and apartheid was a system of racial segregation in which the white minority dominated the largely black population. Mandela was heavily involved in a nonviolence protest group, but after peaceful demonstrators were massacred in 1960, he joined a group engaged in guerrilla warfare, in which armed civilians made quick strikes against the government.

In 1964, Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. He served 27 years of the sentence, much of it at the brutal Robbin Island Prison, where he had a small cell without a bed and was forced to do hard labor in a rock quarry. During his time in prison, international groups rallied for his release with the slogan “Free Nelson Mandela!” He was finally freed February 11, 1990, after South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk dismantled apartheid.

Four years later, Mandela became South Africa’s first black president. During his presidency, Mandela worked to dismantle social and economic inequalities. He and de Klerk jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for peacefully working against apartheid and for democracy. The United Nations has named July 18 Mandela Day in honor of his birthday.

Fun Fact: Mandela’s peaceful resistance movement was inspired by Mohandas Gandhi. Though Gandhi is most famous for his nonviolent resistance work in his native India, he spent 21 years in South Africa, where he developed his method of Satyagraha, or nonviolent protest, when he fought for equal rights for Indians living in the country.