South African political leader Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918-2013) was a light, a symbol of freedom over apartheid.
Mandela was born on this day in a mud hut in the village of Mvezo in South Africa, a member of the Madiba clan. His African name, Rolihlahla, ironically means "troublemaker."
To fight apartheid, Mandela joined the rebel army which sought to overthrow the minority white government that ruled South Africa.
"I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society," Mandela said. "If needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die for."
In 1962, he was captured and sentenced to life in prison. Jailed for 27 years, he became a shining international legend and a symbol of resistance and survival.
Mandela and his fellow inmates transformed the prison on Robben Island into "a kind of unofficial university," explained biographer Anthony Sampson. The experience "gradually transformed Mandela from a headstrong activist into a reflective and consummately skilled statesman."
Released in 1990, the leader addressed his countrymen, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., "We can loudly proclaim from the rooftops--Free at last! Free at last! ...It is not the individuals that matter, but the collective...This is a time to heal the old wounds and build a new South Africa."
The dynamic Mandela won the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize and ascended to his country's presidency in 1994, directing the nation toward a multi-racial government and majority rule.
More MANDELA Quotations
Love one another.