Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela on 18th July, 1918.
He was the first person in his family to go to school and there his teacher gave him the English name ‘Nelson’. At that time the National Party was in power.
Its policy of racial segregation or ‘apartheid’ meant that black people were second-class citizens and life was very hard for them in South Africa. After university, Mandela went to Johannesburg, where he joined the opposition movement, the African National Congress (ANC). At first the ANC had a policy of non-violent opposition. However, after Mandela was arrested with 150 others in 1956 and charged with treason, he realised that non-violence protest was not enough.
In 1961 he became the leader of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) and made plans for guerrilla war if their other campaigns did not end apartheid. Mandela was finally arrested in August 1962. He spent the next twenty-seven years of his life in prison, eighteen of them on Robben Island. Here prison conditions were very basic and black prisoners received very little food. Mandela could only have one visitor and one letter every six months. During his time in prison Nelson Mandela became a symbol of freedom and equality because of his continuing campaign to end apartheid. Politicians, activists, writers and artists around the world put pressure on the South Africa government to release him. Nelson Mandela finally walked out of prison on the 2nd February,1990. People watched the event on live the television all over the world.