“Describe the rise to prominence of the personality you have researched”
“(nelson Mandela) …. One of the most influential, courageous and profound human beings that any of us will ever share time with on this earth.” –Barrack Obama, 5th December 2013, upon the death of Mandela A freedom fighter, anti-apartheid campaigner, and a political prisoner, Nelson ‘Rolihahla’ Mandela, a visionary of racial justice, is argued to have gained both his national and international prominence through three focal junctures in his lifetime: Schooling (1940), involvement with the ANC (1944-1999), and Imprisonment (1964). Through these three principle stages, Mandela manipulated the racially unjust legislation of the Apartheid as a catalyst to his culmination of both National and World wide prominence.
Segregation and racial discrimination in South Africa affected Mandela even in his early years; in pre-school, he was forced to abandon his given name, ‘Rolihlahla,’ and adopt a Christian name; Nelson. (History.com Staff, n.d.). Drawing on this, it is suggested that Mandela’s rise to prominence began with his unique education in Law at the University at Witwatersrand, early 1940’s. This education provided a background to the racist mindset of the majority of Southern Africa through studies of history (descent of slaves and white supremacy). This degree also equipped him with key understandings of politics, and the skillset he would later require in his years as an Influential member of the ANC. (Kramer, 2003) In this University, Mandela also made contact with those that had also suffered from racial abuse like he had, and relations grew with white and coloured activists promoting racial equality (pre-apartheid era) (History.com Staff, 2009). Early prominence within the student community was achieved through regular participation in underground student body movements for the duration of his university education. These were the same people that would aid him in his struggle for liberation. (Kramer, 2003). An example of his early rebellions lay in the Boycott of the Alexandra Bus Company, in which he and his university peers participated in; an exclamation of their compulsion and courage to oppose injustice. From this, it is accepted that Mandela’s road to prominence began in the early 1940’s in his university education, where he established the ground work and relations that lay the basis unto which he used to gain later national, political influence from within the African National Congress.
Hamilton (n.d), suggests that Mandela’s road to political prominence emerged in 1942, upon his decision to become a member of the political opposition party; the African National Congress (ANC), in an attempt to confront racial discrimination. Hamilton (n.d) also argues this involvement in the ANC was to define the rest of Mandela’s life.
Upon joining the ANC, Mandela sought to challenge racial inequality. In 1944, he helped establish the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) to appeal to a larger majority of coloured South Africans, which is argued to have boosted the ANC’s membership numbers, and was appointed secretary. (History of the African National Congress, n.d.). Combined with this, his early roles in the African National Congress Youth League, which included passive disobedience, (History.com Staff 2009) is evidence proving Mandela’s growing salient political prominence within the Party. Hamilton (n.d) argues the apartheid, which racially codified the population, was a catalyst unto Mandela’s national prominence. This outrageous law incited national protests and resistance, in which Mandela placed himself -as representative of the ANCYL- at the forefront of, by organising mass movements against apartheid, involving strikes, boycotts and non-violent disobedience. This was seen as such a bold movement, the ANC adopted Civil disobedience as its official policy in 1949. Such an invocation saw Mandela placed on the Executive ANC Committee in 1950 (Kramer, 2003). From his already attained influence, Mandela further expanded into what was another clear example of his growing political prominence both within the ANC and the public eye; The 1952 launching of the Defiance campaign, supported by the ANC. (Kramer, 2003) Mandela proved his worth in his public demonstration of burning his ‘black pass’ book – the book a symbol of oppression and the burning a symbol of rebellion. (South African Embassy, Akara, 2011). This again drew national attention to Mandela from his base in the ANC, who was seen as a synecdoche for the values of the ANC as a whole. Mandela’s involvement with the ANC’s public resistance strengthened further in 1961, upon his placement as commander of the ANC’s Armed Wing, or ‘Spear of the Nation’. He manipulated this role to plan bombings in areas of significance to the apartheid, (“Nelson Mandela,” n.d. Para. 5). Attaining national attention to both himself and the ANC. This eminence, however, culminated in his arrest in 1969 and sentencing to life imprisonment. (“Nelson Mandela” n.d. Para. 5). As proven, Mandela’s salient prominence grew from his once mediocre titles within the ANC, to titles of huge influence within the Nation, and the road Mandela led to his ultimate international prominence is clearly stated.
“He became the heroic figure to young black south Africans. They were electrified by his name from that point onwards” – Allistair Sparks, History Channel Journalist 2009. This exert proves how Mandela’s influence grew from within the ANC, to the public of South Africa.
Without a doubt, Mandela’s prominence climaxed upon his lifetime jail sentencing; which spread his influence worldwide. (Kramer, 2003). Mandela was a representative of Anti-Apartheid movements, and his sentencing evoked national, and international, outrage; he came to symbolise the struggle of oppressed people around the world.
The Johannesburg Sunday Post introduced the ‘Free Mandela’ campaign in 1980, requesting readers to sign a petition to release Mandela. The campaign was successful with black organisations and white sympathizers, spreading worldwide. Streets and student bodies were named after him, songs protesting his imprisonment were written about him (Mandela: Bring Him Back Home, Hugh Masekela) and in 1981 students at the University of London nominated him for honorary Chancellor, all of which reinforced his influence over the World; Mandela was now the world’s most famous prisoner (Kramer, 2003).