The Life And Times Of Nelson Mandela, Anti-Apartheid Revolutionary

Photo courtesy of Paul Simpson via Flickr, modified by Curiousmatic.

Everything you need to know about the incredible life of inspirational once-president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who died on December 5, 2013, at the age of 95.

Nelson Mandela, who passed away at an admirable 95 years old, had a dramatic history as an influential anti-apartheid revolutionary. He served 27 years in prison, after which he was elected the first black President of South Africa from 1994-1999 in the country’s first multi-racial election.

Mandela was an inspirational figure that died on December 5, 2013 after receiving intense home-based medical care for a lung infection. A biopic is even in the works. But what is his story?

Early Life: Revolution and Prison

Nelson Mandela, born to the Thumbu royal family in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918,  dreamed of contributing to the freedom-struggle of his people from a young age, according to The Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Attending university at the University College of Fort Hare, from which he was expelled for participating in a student protest, before completing his BA at the University of South Africa. Mandela proceeded to study law at the University of Witwatersrand.

Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944, with whom he engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party’s apartheid policies, which systematically forced racial segregation, and enforced the inferior treatment of those of color.

Within the ANC, Mandela founded the Youth League, was elected President of the Transvaal ANC Branch, worked as a lawyer, and established a military wing called Umkhonto we Sizwe. Members of this wing, including Mandela, were tried and found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life-imprisonment.

Life after Prison: Presidency and Legacy

While in prison (first Robben Island prison, then Pollsmore Prison), Mandela’s reputation as the most significant black leader and symbol of resistance grew, according to This steady strength in support of the anti-apartheid movement lead to his eventual release, 27 years later, in 1990.

Mandela was elected the ANC President in 1991, as he continued his life’s work promoting non-segregated democracy for all, being jointly awarded the Nobel Peace prize with the then-current President FW de Klerk in 1993. In 1994, he was elected the first black president of South Africa, and first democratically elected president the country had seen.


Mandela stepped down after five years, in 1999, and continued his work through several foundations since then, such as the Nelson Mandela Children’s fund, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and the Mandela-Rhodes Foundation.

Mandela is regarded with deep respect worldwide, especially in South Africa, where he is often referred to as Madiba, the name of his clan, or Tata, meaning father.

In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared Mandela’s birthday Nelson Mandela International Day – this promotes his message of global peace, and celebrates his legacy.

What do you think about Nelson Mandela, and his life work promoting peace and equality? Tweet us @Curiousmatic.

Jennifer Markert