Biography for Kids
from White House Photograph Office
- Occupation: President of South Africa and Activist
- Born: July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa
- Died: December 5, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa
- Best known for: Serving 27 years in prison as a protest against apartheid
Nelson Mandela was a civil rights
leader in South Africa
. He fought against apartheid
, a system where non-white citizens were segregated from whites and did not have equal rights. He served a good portion of his life in prison for his protests, but became a symbol for his people. Later he would become president of South Africa.
Where did Nelson Mandela grow up?
Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa. His birth name is Rolihlahla. He got the nickname Nelson from a teacher in school. Nelson was a member of Thimbu royalty and his father was chief of the city of Mvezo. He attended school and later college at the College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand. At Witwatersrand, Mandela got his law degree and would meet some of his fellow activists against apartheid.
What did Nelson Mandela do?
Nelson Mandela became a leader in the African National Congress (ANC). At first he pushed hard for the congress and the protesters to follow Mohandas Gandhi's non-violence approach. At one point he started to doubt that this approach would work and started up an armed branch of the ANC. He planned to bomb certain buildings, but only the buildings. He wanted to make sure that no one would be hurt. He was classified as a terrorist by the South African government and sent to prison.
Mandela would spend the next 27 years in prison. His prison sentence brought international visibility to the anti-apartheid movement. He was finally released through international pressure in 1990.
Once released from prison, Nelson continued his campaign to end apartheid. His hard work and life long effort paid off when all races were allowed to vote in the 1994 election. Nelson Mandela won the election and became president of South Africa. There were several times during the process where violence threatened to break out. Nelson was a strong force in keeping the calm and preventing a major civil war.
How long was Nelson Mandela in prison?
He spent 27 years in prison. He refused to bend on his principals in order to be released and stated that he would die for his ideals. He wanted all people of all races to have equal rights in South Africa.
Fun facts about Nelson Mandela
- Nelson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
- July 18th is Nelson Mandela day. People are asked to devote 67 minutes to helping others. The 67 minutes represents the 67 years Mandela spent serving his country.
- Invictus was a 2009 movie about Nelson Mandela and the South African rugby team.
- He had six children and twenty grandchildren.
Take a ten question quiz
about this page.
Back to Biographies
More Civil Rights Heroes: