Nelson Mandela Biography | Nobel Peace Prize Winner | Amazing Quotes

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is a black leader of international fame to become the first president of South Africa in 1994 and to fight against racial discrimination, serving until 1999. He is famous for his long fight against pro-apartheid government. Nelson Mandela stands as a symbol of global peacemaking and he won Nobel peace prize in 1993. He is known by the title ‘the father of the nation’ in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela:

Early Life And Education:

Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 in the village of Mvezo in Umtata, South Africa. Rolihlahla meant trouble maker. Mandela’s father Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa Mandela was a local chef and adviser to the monarch. Gadla was a polygamist with four wives, four sons and nine daughters; Mandela was the youngest of four boys. His mother Nosekeni Fanny was Gadla's third wife. Both his father and mother were illiterate but they were devout Christians. He grew up with his two sisters and mother in the village of Qunu.  At the age of seven his mother sent him to a local Methodist school. He was the first member in his family to be sent to school. The prefix ‘Nelson’ was given by his teacher in accordance with the tradition existing there. In 1930, when he was 12 his father died. After his father’s death his mother took him to the "Great Place" palace at Mqhekezweni, where he was entrusted to the regent of thembu, Jongintaba Dalindyebo. Nelson Mandela attended a Methodist mission school, where he studied English, Xhosa, history and geography. Nelson Mandela learnt about his culture and heritage by the stories narrated by the elder chiefs who came to the Great Palace on official business. It was during this period, he developed a strong love for African history and also he learnt the art of leadership.

In 1933 Nelson Mandela attended Clarkebury Methodist High School in Engcobo for secondary education. Nelson Mandela completed his Junior Certificate in two years. After completing the college he went to study BA at Fort Hare University. In 1940 when he was in second year he was expelled from Fort Hare University College for refusing to join the students’ council because of a dispute over the canteen food. After the suspension he went to his village Mqhekezweni in disgrace. He found that his guardian Jongintaba had arranged marriages for Nelson Mandela and Jongintaba’s son. They fled to Johannesburg because they were dismayed by marriage arrangements.

After a dramatic journey, Nelson Mandela found work as a night watchman at Crown Mines. After some days he was fired because his headman discovered that he was a runaway. Nelson Mandela stayed with a cousin in George Goch Township, who introduced Nelson Mandela to realtor and ANC activist Walter Sisulu. Later Mandela got a job as an articled clerk. He began attending ANC meetings in 1941. To continue his education Mandela joined BA via correspondence course and studied during the night at University of South Africa. After completing the BA in 1943, he began studying law at the University of the Witwatersrand where he was the only black African student and faced racism in his class.

Joining the ANC:

In 1944 Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC), a South African political party under the leadership of Walter Sisulu, who was increasingly influencing Mandela. ANC's main goal was to fight against the racism and improve the conditions and the rights for black people in South Africa. In the same year he became one of the ANC's younger members of the newly founded ANC's Youth League. He made his mark by helping to manage the newly founded Youth League. In 1950 he became the president of the league. From then on, Mandela continued his fight against the racism more seriously.

Espousal of Non-violence:

Impressed by the philosophy of non-violence propounded by Mahatma Gandhi, Mandela began his protest against apartheid with a small group of 10,000 people with Indian and communist members which eventually rose to 100,000 followers in no time.

Political Prisoner:

For his anti-apartheid movement, Mandela was arrested a couple of times. First he was arrested in 1952 under the Suppression of Communism Act and stood trial as one of the 21 accused. By this time he was given a six-month ban from attending meeting or talking to more than one individual at a time. Later in 1956, Mandela and other ANC leaders were arrested on charges of high treason. He went on trial with 155 other political leaders. The trial dragged on for nearly five years. Mandela often stayed in prison at night and worked in the day at his law firm. Finally the charges against him and others were disproved in 1961. By this time, however, the South African government had outlawed the ANC.

In 1962 Mandela was again arrested, this time for leaving South Africa illegally and for inciting strikes. After 27 years in prison, on February 11, 1990, the state president F.W. de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC and announced the release of Nelson Mandela from the prison. He received joyful welcomes wherever he went around the world. In 1991, he was elected for the presidency of the ANC.

Mandela Becomes President Of South Africa:

Mandela was elected the first black president of South Africa by winning elections and his election was as expected by the entire world. The original black native people were adamant to rule their own nation and did not allow the native whites to take up ruling position. As a result, several events of social unrest, civil disturbances, turmoil erupted nationwide. However, by the proactive intervention by Mandela, the transfer of power took place peacefully and he became the first pioneer to lead an independent South Africa in 1994.

In spite of insistence by his admirers and staunch followers, Mandela did not want to continue as a president for the second term. However, after stepping down from the presidential position, he continued his activities of social service like raising funds for school buildings and health care centers in the rural parts of South Africa. After becoming the founder of the Mandela foundation, he played an active role to mediate in the Burundi civil war.

Personal Life and Legacy:

  • Nelson Mandela married three times. On October 1944 he married Evelyn Ntoko Mase. After 13 years in 1957, they both divorced. The couple had four children; two sons and two daughters, out of whom only two survive presently.

  • Later in 1958, Mandela wed Winnie Madikizela. They couple was blessed with two daughters. The two separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996.

  • On account of his 80th birthday Mandela remarried Graca Machel, widow of Samora Machel.

Death of an Icon:

Mandela suffered from deteriorating health condition. Mandela was hospitalized many times due to a series of worsening respiratory problems. Finally Nelson Mandela died on 5 December 2013, aged 95.


Nelson Mandela shared Nobel Peace Prize together with FW de Klerk in 1993. He dedicated the award to Mahatma Gandhi, by whom he was deeply influenced. Although Nobel Peace Prize is the most notable award, he received more than 250 awards additionally.  Here we list the top prestigious awards among them:

  • Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1979

  • Bruno Kreisky Prize for Services to Human Rights in 1981

  • International Simon Bolivar Prize in 1983

  • Freedom of the City of Aberdeen in 1984

  • LudovicTrarieux International Human Rights Prize in 1985

  • W E B DuBois International Medal in 1986

  • Sakharov Prize in 1988

  • United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 1988

  • Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights in 1989

  • Bharat Ratna in 1990

  • Lenin Peace Prize in 1990

  • Félix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize in 1991

  • Carter–Menil Human Rights Prize in 1991

  • Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in 1992

  • Isitwalandwe Medal in 1992

  • Nishan-e-Pakistan in 1992

  • Time's Person of the Year in 1993

  • Philadelphia Liberty Medal in 1993

  • J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding in 1993

  • Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award in 1994

  • Harvard Business School Statesman of the Year Award in 1995

  • U Thant Peace Award in 1996

  • World Citizenship Award in 1996

  • Indira Gandhi Award for International Justice and Harmony in 1996

  • Order of the Nile in 1997

  • Congressional Gold Medal in 1998

  • Gandhi–King Award in 1999

  • Gandhi Peace Prize in 2001

  • Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002

  • Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002

  • NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work - Children's in 2003

  • Bambi - Honorary Prize of the Jury in 2004

  • Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2006

  • Giuseppe Motta Medal in 2006

  • Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2009

  • Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012

  • The BET Honors Champion of Humanity Award in 2014

  • Audie Audiobook of the Year in 2015

  • Audie Award for Original Work in 2015

Nelson Mandela’s Most Inspiring Quotations:

  • “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

  • Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

  • “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

  • “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.”

  • “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

  • “The greatest glory in living is not in falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

  • “There is no passion to be found playing small in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

  • “As I walked out the door 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.”

  • “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

  • “And if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”

  • “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

  • “After climbing a great hill. One only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

  • “Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

  • “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

Nelson Mandela

  • “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

  • “Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.”

  • “What counts is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

  • “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to helping others without expecting anything in return.”

  • “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

  • “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

  • “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you have altered.”

  • “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity; it is an act of justice.”

  • “Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.”

  • “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”

  • “I never lose. I either win or learn.”

  • “We commit ourselves to the construction of a complete, just, and lasting peace.”

  • “It is what we make out of what we have given, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”

  • “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.”

  • “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

  • “No single person can liberate a country. You can only liberate a country if you act as a collective.”

  • “If you want the cooperation of humans around you, you must make them feel they are important, and you do that by being genuine and humble.”

  • “Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world.”

  • Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”

  • “We need to exert ourselves that much more, and break out of the vicious cycle of dependence imposed on us by the financially powerful: those in command of immense market power and those who dare to fashion the world in their own image.”

  • “Forget the past.”

  • “When people are determined they can overcome anything.”

  • “Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.”

  • “We must use time wisely and forever realise that the time is always ripe to do right.”

  • “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.”

  • “In my country, we go to prison first and then become President.”

  • “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”

  • “There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere.”

  • “To deny people their human rights is to deny their very humanity.”

  • “People respond in accordance to how you treat them.”

  • “I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent.”

  • “Without education, your children can never really meet the challenges they will face. So it’s very important to give children education and explain that they should play a role for their country.”

  • “Give a child love, laughter and peace.”

  • “There is nothing I fear more than waking up without a program that will help me bring a little happiness to those with no resources, those who are poor, illiterate, and ridden with terminal disease.”

  • “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.”

  • “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all person live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”


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