By DeAnna Lockett, Class of 2017
“Death is something inevitable. When [a man] has done what he considers to be his duty to his people, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I sleep for eternity.” –Nelson Mandela.
On December 5, 2013 Nelson Mandela, Nobel Peace Prize winner, former President of South Africa, prisoner, freedom fighter for all men, and anti-apartheid hero, passed away. This legend was an extraordinary leader of his people who overcame the trials in his country and achieved his ultimate goal. He abolished racial segregation also known as apartheid in South Africa and wanted equality for all people, black and white.
Through Mandela’s early education, he learned that at one time in history white and black men lived in peace in South Africa, but the whites, specifically the Dutch and British, later claimed the land for themselves. During the ceremony of circumcision, the main speaker Chief Meligqui expressed his sorrow for the young men including Mandela. He was saddened by the fact that these men were “prisoners” in their own land and would never have the freedom to govern themselves, but would always be fulfilling the work of the white man. At the time Mandela did not quite understand the words of the chief. However, later on in his life he admitted that these words helped him in his work towards making South Africa an independent nation.
During Mandela’s young adult years in 1939, he enrolled in University College of Fort Hare, an equivalent to Harvard University. Being the first in his family to have any formal education, he was elected to the Student Representative Council. Mandela resigned from his position because of the lack of power that the council had. Viewing this as a disrespectful act, Dr. Kerr of the university expelled Mandela and would only allow him to return if he rejoined the SRC, but Mandela still refused to return. To avoid an arranged marriage, He ran away from home to Johannesburg and began to study law at the University of Witwatersrand. There, he joined the African National Congress (ANC), a united group of young Africans, in 1942 who began a violent approach against racial segregation such as boycotts and strikes. He later founded the law firm Ma
ndela and Tambo with his friend from Fort Hare Oliver Tambo.
Eventually, Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years in 1963 for leading an armed strike against apartheid with the ANC. Soon, the South African Government planned for his escape; but the British outsmarted them. He and other ANC members were then emblem of resistance for the blacks of South Africa, and they too stood up against the British and began an international campaign for his release that gained an enormous amount of support, showing how much the world respected Mandela for his strength and courage: “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Mandela lived out these words by realizing that God destined him for greatness and he could not simply watch him and his people be enslaved in their own country. Therefore, by fighting for his own freedom he inspired his people to do the same.
Finally, on February 11, 1990, Mandela was released from prison: “As I walked out 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.” On the day of his release, he realized that if he let his heart harden against the British, they would still be controlling his thoughts and actions. They wanted him to retaliate so that they could have another reason to imprison him. However, he left prison a changed man and responded to them in love and forgiveness. Although Mandela had already shaken the nation with his bold movements, he still worked with the ANC towards giving his people the right to vote. In 1993 Mandela was declared a Nobel Peace Prize winner forhis efforts in abolishing apartheid. Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president on May 10, 1994.