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Who was Nelson Mandela?

Nelson Mandela at the age of 90, in 2008Nelson Mandela at the age of 90, in 2008From the 1940s until 1994, Nelson Mandela (1918–2013) was a leader in the struggle against apartheid (segregation, the keeping people of different races apart) in South Africa. During that time, he was held as a prisoner for 27 years. In 1994, Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. He was also the first president to be elected by voters of all races in that country.


Traditional homes in the Transkei regionTraditional homes in the Transkei region

Early life

Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela on 18th July 1918 in a small village in the Transkei region, southeastern South Africa. His father was a chief of the Thembu clan, a Xhosa-speaking people. He attended the local Methodist school, where the teacher gave him his English name, Nelson. His father died when he was nine, and he was cared for by Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the acting chief of the Thembu people.

Mandela as a studentMandela as a student

Law student

Like all Xhosa boys, when he was 16, Mandela had to perform a daring act to formally become a man. He and his friends captured a pig.

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