Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was an anti-apartheid political leader and philanthropist who became the country’s first Black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. He also served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) party from 1991 to 1997. He was an African nationalist and socialist.
Mandela comes from the Xhosa group, having been born into the Thembu royal family in Mvezo, British South Africa. He studied law at the University of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand before working as a lawyer in Johannesburg. There he became involved in anti-colonial and African nationalist politics, joining the ANC in 1943 and co-founding its Youth League in 1944. After the National Party’s white-only government established apartheid, a system of racial segregation that privileged whites, he and the ANC committed themselves to its overthrow.
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He was arrested and imprisoned in 1962, and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the state following the Rivonia Trial. Mandela served 27 years in prison. President F. W. de Klerk released him in 1990. Mandela worked with de Klerk leading to the 1994 multiracial general election which made him president. He is a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and described as the “Father of the Nation”. He died on December 5, 2013 having entered the world on July 18, 1918.