Born: 18 July 1918
Died: 5 December 2013
Nationality: South African
Nelson Rohlihlahla Mandela became known and respected all over the world as a symbol of the struggle against Apartheid and all forms of racism: the icon and the hero of African liberation. He was an activist, a political prisoner, South Africa's first democratically elected president, an international peacemaker and a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his efforts in dismantling the Apartheid regime.
Mandela became actively involved in the anti-Apartheid movement by joining the African National Congress in 1942. Within the ANC, a small group of young Africans banded together, calling themselves the African National Congress Youth League. Their goal was to transform the ANC into a mass grassroots movement, deriving strength from millions of rural peasants and working people who had no voice under the current regime. For 20 years, he directed a campaign of peaceful defiance and sabotage against the South African government and its racist policies.
In 1962, Mandela secretly left South Africa and travelled to England to gain support for the armed struggle of his people. As a result, he was indicted with leaving the country without a permit and inciting workers to strike. He was consequently incarcerated for five years; this penalty was converted to a life sentence in 1964.
Mandela served 27 years in prison, and was only released in 1990 because of an international campaign lobbying for his release amid escalating civil strife. Mandela joined negotiations with President F. W. de Klerk to abolish Apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994, in which he led the ANC to victory and became South Africa's first black president.
In 2009, Mandela's birthday, 18 July, was declared "Mandela Day" to promote global peace and celebrate the South African leader's legacy. Mandela was one of the world’s great utopians for his values of equality and never answering racism with racism. His life is an inspiration to all people who have been oppressed and discriminated against, as it is a testimony to the fact that there is always hope for a better future.