On this day, the United Nations honors the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the South African activist whose imprisonment became a symbol of anti-apartheid movement. Mandela, who became a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement, was originally opposed to violence. However, following a massacre of unarmed black South Africans, he began to advocate for acts of sabotage against the government. After several arrests, in 1964 he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Mandela spent the next 18 years at the notorious Robben Island prison before being moved to another location, where he lived under house arrest.
In the 1980s, international pressure calling for the Mandela's release built. Finally, in 1989, F.W. de Klerk was elected president of South Africa and began the work to end apartheid and transform the nation into a multi-racial democracy. In February 1990, he ordered Mandela's release from prison. Three years later, the two were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to "break the vicious circle that their country was caught up in."
The following year, in South Africa's first multi-racial election, Nelson Mandela won 62% of the votes. On May 10, 1994, he was inaugurated as the country's first black president.
Mandela Day serves as a global call to action, celebrating the idea that each individual has the power to change the world.
To learn more about Nelson Mandela & the end of apartheid in South Africa, try the following resources:
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