From prisoner to president
Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, into a royal family of the Xhosa-speaking Thembu tribe in the South African village of Mvezo, where his father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa (c. 1880-1928), served as chief. His mother, Nosekeni Fanny, was the third of Mphakanyiswa’s four wives, who together bore him nine daughters and four sons.
After the death of his father in 1927, 9-year-old Mandela (then known by his birth name, Rolihlahla) was adopted by Jongintaba Dalindyebo, a high-ranking Thembu regent who began grooming his young ward for a role within the tribal leadership.
The first in his family to receive a formal education, Mandela completed his primary studies at a local missionary school. There, a teacher dubbed him Nelson as part of a common practice of giving African students English names. He went on to attend the Clarkebury Boarding Institute and Healdtown, a Methodist secondary school, where he excelled in boxing and track as well as academics.
In 1939 Mandela entered the elite University of Fort Hare, the only Western-style higher learning institute for South African blacks at the time. The following year, he and several other students, including his friend and future business partner Oliver Tambo (1917-1993), were sent home for participating in a boycott against university policies.
Treated for prostate cancer in 2001 and weakened by other health issues, Mandela grew increasingly frail in his later years and scaled back his schedule of public appearances. In 2009, the United Nations declared July 18 “Nelson Mandela International Day” in recognition of the South African leader’s contributions to democracy, freedom, peace and human rights around the world. Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013 from a recurring lung infection.
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2 November 2017
Nelson Mandela: Father of a nation
2 December 2015
Nelson Mandela’s life and times
8 June 2013
The long walk of Nelson Mandela
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