Nelson Mandela - Long Walk to Freedom Analysis

Topics: South Africa, Nonviolent resistance, Civil disobedience Pages: 8 (2973 words) Published: June 29, 2011
Long Walk to Violence
The path that lead Nelson Mandela to violence and the effects of his decision

Aside from his loose Communist ties, Nelson Mandela’s use of violence was the only internationally questioned aspect of his struggle for freedom in South Africa. Most modern societies, Americans in particular, view acts of violence as inherently evil. They look to leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King who brought change through nonviolent protest. However, the governments these leaders fought against had rights for citizens and thus the government did not outright murder the protestors. Nelson Mandela performed nonviolent protests for a decade in South Africa while the government violently attacked and killed his protestors. With a government who fights nonviolence with violence, and raises inequality instead of lowering it, Nelson Mandela only saw one solution – armed struggle. His decision brought both condemnation and praise but ultimately brought international attention to the inequality in South Africa. This led to international sanctions against South Africa and eventually forced the white supremacist government to form an equal South Africa.

Growing up in small villages of Mvezo and Qunu, Mandela lived a simple egalitarian life and it was not until he moved into Mqhekezweni that he began to see the real world. Mandela said that before coming to Mqhekezweni he “had no thought of money, or class, or fame, or power” (Mandela, 16). Raised under the privileged environment of the Regent, Mandela was able to attend the best schools and only saw parts of the inequality existing in his country. However, it was not until his running away from the Regent to Johannesburg that Mandela was truly able to see the depths of racial oppression in South Africa.

None can doubt the steadily increasing repression of nonwhites in South Africa that lead Mandela to the freedom struggle after he arrived in Johannesburg in 1941. One can mark the start of inequality in South Africa with the creation of the new Union of South Africa under British Colonial rule in 1910. Shortly after in 1913, the government passed the Land Act, which deprived Africans of 87% of the land. Then in 1923, the Urban Areas Act created slums for Africans near cities to supply cheap labor for the white owned businesses. This was followed by the 1926 Color Bar Act, which banned Africans from practicing skilled trades, and then the 1927 Native Administration Act, which made the British Crown the supreme ruler over African areas. Lastly, in 1936 the Representation of Natives Act removed the African vote in the cape. It was this climate of oppression in which Mandela entered Johannesburg in 1941. However, it was not just this repressive legislation that drove Mandela to politics: I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments, produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned me. (Mandela, 95) The climate in Johannesburg of young freedom fighters gave Mandela an outlet to fight repression: “I discovered for the first time people of my own age firmly aligned with the liberation struggle, who were prepared, despite their relative privilege; to sacrifice themselves for the cause of the oppressed” (Mandela, 92). After a few years in Johannesburg, Mandela knew he wanted to fight inequality but he had yet to develop his method: “No one had ever suggested to me how to go about removing the evils of racial prejudice, and I had to learn by trial and error” (Mandela, 89).

During his first years in Johannesburg, several key events shaped Mandela’s views on how to remove racial prejudice. The first of which was the August 1943 Alexandria Bus Boycott in which Mandela took an active role in the struggle for the first time. The boycott was a resounding success in that it prevented an increase...
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