Nelson Mandela

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Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in a small village in the city of Transkei in South Africa. He was originally named “Rolihlahla”, which means trouble-maker in his native language: Xhosa. When he was a young child, his father lost his title as a counselor to tribal chiefs, causing him to also lose his fortune. Due to this loss, the Mandela family moved to an even smaller village named Qunu, which was north of Mvezo. They lived only on local harvest, because that was all they could afford at the time. Mandela and the young boys living in the village played games made from materials they found outside, such as clay and sticks. (“Nelson Mandela” The Biography Channel website. N.p.) He went to primary school, where his teacher Miss Mdingane gave him the name Nelson, sticking to the custom of all boys having Christian names. ("The Life & Times of Nelson Mandela” Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. N.p.) He was baptized in the Methodist church, and the first one in his family to attend school. Nelson lost his father at the young age of nine to tuberculosis. (“Nelson Mandela” Famous People. N.p.) He was adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo soon after, moving to the provincial capital of Thembuland, which was the royal chief’s home. He was immediately considered equal to his other two children, resulting in the growth of his responsibilities and social status. He enrolled at the University College of Fort Hare. There he studied English, Xhosa, history, and geography. Nelson Mandela became extremely interested in African history; learning and realizing how South Africans’ lives seemed relatively more peaceful before white people came. (“Nelson Mandela” The Biography Channel website. N.p.)

In 1948, apartheid became the government policy in South Africa. Under the system of apartheid, non-white people, called Bantu (black), mixed, or Indian groups, had very few rights. This racial segregation included laws against the marriage of mixed races. In 1950, “pass-laws” were enforced that required all black individuals to carry identification at all times. Three years later, the provision of separate transportation and other public facilities for non- whites was introduced under the Separate Amenities Act of 1953. Apartheid was growing even further, and the government later segregated the population into different areas based on ethnicity. Education was restricted for Bantu children, and all but five universities were allowing enrollment of only white students. (“Apartheid” The Hutchinson Dictionary of Ideas. N.p.) “From 1961 to 1994, more than 3.5 million people were forcibly removed from their homes and deposited in the Bantustans, where they were plunged into poverty and hopelessness.” (“Apartheid” History Education. N.p.)

Nelson Mandela strongly believed that segregation was unfair, and in 1944 he joined the African National Congress. They began leading resistance against the government, calling for equality and justice for everyone. He started up the Youth League, and encouraged people who had no voice under the regime to speak up and show their strength. Nelson Mandela led a campaign of peaceful protest against the South African government and its policies for twenty years. (“Nelson Mandela” The Biography Channel website. N.p.)

Nelson Mandela and the rest of the league noticed that this was having very little effect on the restrictive and exclusionary ways of the government. In 1949, the African National Congress supported and accepted the Youth League’s method: to lead a boycott of strikes and non-cooperation. It was during this time that he joined together with Oliver Tambo to create the law firm Mandela and Tambo, which provided non-whites with free legal counsel. Meanwhile, the ANC and Youth League were continuing their protest, not giving up on their hope for freedom and a democratic, fair government, and in 1956, “Nelson Mandela and 150 others were arrested and charged with treason for their political...
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