Nelson Mandela’s Journey in Activism Through 6 Powerful Quotes

Nelson Mandela’s Journey in Activism Through 6 Powerful Quotes

In his 1990 Speech at London’s Wembley Arena — two months after his release from 27 years in prison — Nelson Mandela reiterated through one quote the purpose of his continued work and the motivation behind his revolutionary anti-apartheid leadership. Presented through scripts and videos at The Mirror, it’s only fitting that this timeline begin with a statement which notes equality — the cause Mandela was all about:

“By ending the system of white minority domination, humanity will have ensured that never again shall the scourge of racial tyranny raise its ugly head.”

After becoming an involved political activist and experiencing racial segregation in an educational and community setting, Mandela — albeit with hesitance — joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944. After anti-apartheid protests and campaigns failed to impact change in South Africa, Mandela insisted on using one of four types of violence. Sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and open revolution, The Daily Beast wrote. The organization’s position however was to move forward with whatever action would bring the least harm to others. After hearing of the police’s issued warrant for his arrest in 1961, Mandela responded through a press release saying:

“I have had to close my business, to abandon my profession, and live in poverty and misery, as many of my people are doing. I shall fight the government side by side with you, inch by inch, and mile by mile, until victory is won.”

In April of 1964 during the Rivonia Trial, Mandela — facing sabotage charges — presenting a statement in his defense. He admitted to organizing with the ANC, convincing protestors and volunteers to defy apartheid laws. Tyranny and oppression, he said, were combated with the only feasible form of resistance as violence was never his first instruction. Even if sentenced to life in prison he expounded on his persistence:

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. 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.”

Released from prison on February 11, 1990 by South Africa’s last apartheid-era president F.W. de Klerk, Mandela addressed a Cape Town crowd the same day celebrating his freedom and future. He thanked the people of South Africa for their continued support and recognized the emergence of an equal society:

“I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.”

In 1993 both F.W. de Klerk and Mandela were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in light of their joint efforts to finally end apartheid in South Africa. The following year, Mandela was elected president in the country’s first free election. The award was also a symbol of South Africa’s future as a democracy. The ANC would now play a major role in the country’s political leadership. Delivering his inaugural speech in May of 1994, Mandela renounced South Africa’s apartheid past:

“Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.”

Gathering influential quotes from statements and speeches, The National noted that Mandela stepped down from his presidency in 1999 as he was satisfied with the change that he impacted within the role. Through the ANC, Mandela continued his work and addresses to parliament speaking out against war — and in favor of those struggling with AIDS. In his 2010 memoir, Conversations with Myself, Mandela reflected on his journey and worldly perception saying:

“One issue that deeply worried me in prison was the false image I unwittingly projected to the outside world; of being regarded as a saint”