Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 on the eastern coast of Africa in Mvezo. When his father died when Nelson was nine, he was raised by royalty. As a result, he was the first person in his family to attend school. Later on in his young adulthood, he became an activist with the African National Congress. Knowing the power of young people, he started the African National Congress Youth League.
Mandela began actively participating in politics in his thirties, when he led the Defiance Campaign in 1952 and the 1955 Congress of the People. His campaigning soon hit a brick wall in 1956, when he was charged with high treason against the government, along with 155 other activists. He, along with the rest of the activists, were later acquitted.
Apartheid was growing stronger, and new laws were passed with which told blacks where they were allowed to live and work. Mandela tried to fight back, coordinating sabotage campaigns against military and government targets and planning a possible guerrilla war. He claimed he hope to bring down the oppressive government and rebuild the country based on democracy, freedom, and above all, equality.
So committed to equality, Mandela said at the time: "It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
Nelson was arrested in 1962 after being on the run for 17 months. He was charged with sabotage and attempting to violently overthrow the government and sentenced to life in prison on Robben Island in South Africa.
While he and other leaders of the Arican National Congress (ANC) were in jail, young South Africans continued to rebel against the apartheid government. It wasn’t until 1990 that change finally came to South Africa.
The ban against the ANC was lifted, Mandela was released after 27 years of being imprisoned, and talks to form a multi-racial democracy were set to begin. Three years later, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end apartheid. Months after that he was elected president.
Since he stepped down as president in 1999, Nelson Mandela has been dedicated to ending global poverty and helping to resolve wars and conflicts throughout Africa.