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17 Things You Didn’t Know About Nelson Mandela

17 Things You Didn’t Know About Nelson Mandela

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Most people knew Nelson Mandela as the first black president of South Africa, a man who became a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement, and one who gave up nearly 30 years of his life in prison. He remains a hero to South Africans as well as to the international community, and will continually represent the struggle for freedom. But it’s easy to forget that even legends are human. Here are 17 things you probably didn’t know about Nelson Mandela.

Sources: sahistory.org.za, mymag.com, heavy.com, criticallegalthinking.com, 2oceansvibe.com, entertainment.time.com, independent.co.uk, latimes.com

Mandela in prison Jurgen Schadeberg
Mandela in prison
Jurgen Schadeberg

 Mandela’s tribal nickname is “Rolihlahla,” meaning “Troublemaker.”

Other accounts translate Rolihlalhla to mean “to pull a branch from a tree,” which, of course, is something only a troublemaker would do. It was his teacher, Miss Mdingane, who gave him the English name “Nelson,” much to the relief of journalists everywhere when he became famous.

worldofblackheroes.com
worldofblackheroes.com

Nelson’s father was a village chief

Mandela’s father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was made chief and councilor- to- the -monarch of the Thembu people in the village of Mvezo (where Nelson was born), in 1915. In 1926, his title was revoked after charges of corruption, although Nelson later claimed it was because he stood up for himself against ridiculous demands.

ccel.ca
ccel.ca

First of his family to attend school

At age 9, after his father’s death, Rolihlahla was placed in the school where he was deemed “Nelson.” He attended high school at Healdtown Methodist Boarding School, and blazed the trail for the first time ever–no one in his family had ever made it so far academically.

A young Mandela ILoveHistory
A young Mandela
ILoveHistory

Mandela was expelled from university after less than a year.

After finishing boarding school, Mandela headed to Fort Hare Missionary College. Less than 12 months later, he was expelled from college for helping to organize a strike against the white colonial rule of the institution. One might call this foreshadowing.

ezakwantu.com
ezakwantu.com

Mandela set up the first all-black law firm in South Africa

With his legal partner, Oliver Tambo, Mandela provided cheap legal services to blacks who were suffering the ramifications of Apartheid law. When blacks were charged with breaching laws like mis-stepping into white-only areas or drinking from the same water fountain, they faced the mercy of being charged more money, and unfair punishments. Mandela’s Johannesburg office was welcoming arms.

theamericanconservative.com
theamericanconservative.com

Before Mandela championed peace…

He was a firm advocate for armed struggle against the brutality of the Apartheid system after initial non-violent protests (like the Sharpeville Massacre) failed. In 1961, Mandela set up the Umkonto We Sizwe (“Spearhead of the Nation”, or “MK”), the armed wing of the African National Congress. Held responsible for at least 63 deaths on account of multiple bombings, the group was deemed a terrorist organization by the United States and South Africa.

onlinewatchmovies.tv
onlinewatchmovies.tv

Silver screen Nelson

Ever seen the Spike Lee joint “Do the Right Thing”? Well, it’s Nelson Mandela’s only film role, even though we know his persuasion chops could have at least landed him a Hollywood career. It’s blink-and-you-miss-it, but here is the clip. Mandela plays an inspiring schoolteacher in Soweto, South Africa. Take a look!

2oceansvibe.com
2oceansvibe.com

His costume the night Mandela was arrested

After pretty much playing cat-and-mouse with Apartheid officials (his previous disguises included a fieldworker and a chef), Mandela was finally arrested in 1962, driving an Austin Westminster (above) with his comrade Cecil Williams. He was dressed as a chauffeur, and was on his way to an ANC meeting. 27 years later, Mandela saw free ground again.

nelsonmandelas.com
nelsonmandelas.com

Mandela rejected being freed

In 1985, State President P.W. Botha offered Mandela conditional release from his prison term. Contingent upon this was his renouncing of violence and violent protest. Mandela refused in a statement delivered by his daughter Zinzi. “It was only when all other forms of resistance were no longer open to us that we turned to armed struggle.”

 

Nelson Mandela the day after he was released from prison in 1990, at the age of 72 Biography.com
Nelson Mandela the day after he was released from prison in 1990, at the age of 72
Biography.com

 The United Nations decreed his birthday as Mandela Day.

In 2009, the U.N. declared Mandela’s birthday, July 18, as Mandela Day to mark his contribution to world freedom. The holiday calls on individuals to donate 67 minutes to doing something for others, reflecting the 67 years that Mandela had been a part of the anti-apartheid movement.

Qunu, Eastern Cape - the village where Mandela spent much of his childhood CNN
Qunu, Eastern Cape – the village where Mandela spent much of his childhood
CNN

 Mandela is often referred to as Madiba, his Xhosa clan name

Mandela was a member of the Thembu, a Xhosa clan, and was often referred to by his clan name, Madiba. It is a sign of the incredible diversity of people and languages in South Africa. The country has 11 different official languages.

After his father's death, Nelson was sent to live with the Thembu regent in Mqhekezweni, outside of Mthatha CNN
After his father’s death, Nelson was sent to live with the Thembu regent in Mqhekezweni, outside of Mthatha
CNN

 Mandela’s father had four wives, and Nelson is one of 13 children.

Mandela’s father, a local chief and councellor to the Thembu king, died from tuberculosis when his son was 9. Before that, he fathered 13 children by four wives, four boys and nine  girls. After his father’s death, Mandela was put under the guardianship of Jongintaba, the Thembu regent.

Mandela accepts the Nobel Peace Prize with F.W. de Klerk Biography.com
Mandela accepts the Nobel Peace Prize with F.W. de Klerk
Biography.com

 Mandela has received more than 250 awards for his accomplishments.

Among these awards is the shared 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with F.W. de Klerk, the last president of the apartheid government of South Africa (he too is widely credited as an instrumental force in ending apartheid). Additionally, Mandela had received more than 50 honorary degrees from international universities worldwide, became the first honorary Canadian citizen in 2001, and received the last Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union.

Stevie Wonder's controversial Oscar acceptance RollingStone
Stevie Wonder’s controversial Oscar acceptance
RollingStone

 Stevie Wonder dedicated his 1985 Oscar for “I Just Called to Say I Love You” to Mandela.

After Stevie accepted his award in honor of Nelson Mandela, the government-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation banned Stevie’s music from the airways. It wasn’t until Mandela was elected in 1994 that Stevie was finally allowed back in South Africa.

46664, Mandela's prison cell number at Robben Island, has become an international campaign to fight AIDS CNN
46664, Mandela’s prison cell number at Robben Island, has become an international campaign to fight AIDS
CNN

Mandela outlived his two oldest sons.

Mandela had six children, but tragically lost his two oldest sons. Thembi died in a car crash at age 25. Mandela was in prison at the time of the death and was unable to attend the funeral. Another son died of AIDS in 2005 at age 54. While Mandela’s administration was criticized for not doing enough to fight the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, he established the Nelson Mandela Foundation in 1999 following his retirement to help fight the spread of AIDS.

After running away from home, Mandela became involved in the African National Congress, pictured here CNN
After running away from home, Mandela became involved in the African National Congress, pictured here
CNN

 Mandela ran away from home at age of 19.

When his guardian tried to arrange a marriage, Mandela ran away from home in 1941 and headed to Johannesburg. He began to work as a night watchman at Crown Mines, but was fired after it was discovered that he was the Thembu regent’s runaway.

Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu Biography.com
Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Biography.com

 Mandela spent his first night after being freed from prison in Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s home.

Tutu had his helpers prepare his own favorite meal of chicken curry, rice and green salad, followed by rum raisin ice cream and custard.

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