Freedom fighter, prisoner, moral compass and South Africa’s symbol of the struggle against racial oppression, Nelson Mandela dies at 95.
Nelson Mandela’s willingness to forgive and forget helped peacefully end an era of white domination in his native South Africa.
“Mandela’s biggest legacy … was his remarkable lack of bitterness and the way he did not only talk about reconciliation, but he made reconciliation happen in South Africa,” said F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president before giving way to Mandela, the country’s first black leader.
His message of reconciliation, not vengeance, inspired the world after he negotiated a peaceful end to segregation and urged forgiveness for the white government that imprisoned him.
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison,” Mandela said after he was freed in 1990.
Mandela, a former president, battled health issues in recent years, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations.
South Africa’s current leader announced late Thursday that, after years suffering from health ailments, the man known widely by his clan name of Madiba died at 8:50 p.m. (1:50 p.m. ET) surrounded by family.
“He is now resting. He is now at peace,” President Jacob Zuma said late Thursday. “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”
Below are some interesting facts about Mandela and powerful quotes from him :
- He quit his day job: He studied law at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and opened the nation’s first black law firm in Johannesburg in 1952.
- He was on the U.S. terror watch list: Mandela wasn’t removed from the U.S. terror watch list until 2008 — at age 89. He and other members of the African National Congress were placed on it because of their militant fight against apartheid.
- He drew his inspiration from a poem: While locked up at Robben Island for decades, Mandela would read William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” to fellow prisoners. The poem, about never giving up, resonated with Mandela for its lines “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” You may know it from the movie, “Invictus,” starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela.
- He married a first lady: Before tying the knot with Mandela on his 80th birthday, Graca Machel was married to Mozambique President Samora Machel. Her marriage to Mandela after her husband’s death means she has been the first lady of two nations.
― Nelson Mandela
―Nelson Mandela, Long Walk To Freedom