Icon Nelson Mandela Dies, 1918-2013: First Black President Of South Africa

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Videos, Quotations and Photographs of the Anti-Apartheid Icon

Nelson Mandela at 22 years old describes his strategy for reclaiming fundamental rights for black South Africans from his hideout before his arrest.

Nelson Mandela speech upon his release from prison in 1990

Nelson Mandela speech on his inauguration as president in 1994

On poverty:

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.” — Speech delivered in Johannesburg, July 2, 2005.

On apartheid rule:

“We are extricating ourselves from a system that insulted our common humanity by dividing us from one another on the basis of race and setting us against each other an oppressed and oppressor. That system committed a crime against humanity.” — Speech in Pretoria upon receipt of a report from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, which investigated apartheid-era atrocities. Oct. 29, 1998

On Racism:

“Racism is a blight on the human conscience. The idea that any people can be inferior to another, to the point where those who consider themselves superior define and treat the rest as sub-human, denies the humanity even of those who elevate themselves to the status of gods.” — Address to the UK’s Joint Houses of Parliament, July 11, 1996.

On Struggle:

“Only through hardship, sacrifice and militant action can freedom be won. The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.”

On Revolution:

“It is revolutionary…precisely because the changes it envisages cannot be won without breaking up the economic and political set-up…to win the demands calls for the organization, launching, and development of mass struggles on the widest scale.”

On Building a Mass Movement:

“The most vital task facing the democratic movement in this country is to unleash such struggles and to develop them on the basis of the concrete and immediate demands of the people from area to area. Only in this way can we build a powerful mass movement which is the only guarantee of ultimate victory in the struggle for democratic reforms.”

On Mass Defiance:

“The majority of South Africans, black and white, recognize that apartheid has no future. It has to be ended by our own decisive mass action in order to build peace and security. The mass campaign of defiance and other actions of our organization and people can only culminate in the establishment of democracy.”

On his Decision to Take Up Arms Against Apartheid:

“I and some colleagues came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be wrong and unrealistic for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the government met our peaceful demands with force. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle.” — Statement at the opening of his defense in the Rivonia treason trial, April 20, 1964.

On his opposition to apartheid:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” — Statement at the opening of his defense in the Rivonia treason trial, April 20, 1964.

On love and hate:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Mandela wrote in his memoir Long Walk to Freedom.

On Freedom:

“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.”

On Optimism:

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
– Mandela wrote in his memoir Long Walk to Freedom

The Path to Freedom:

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

On Bitterness and Hatred:

“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.”

On Being Devoted to Liberation:

“I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.”

– Mandela wrote in his memoir Long Walk to Freedom

Our liberation, liberates others:

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

– Mandela wrote in his memoir Long Walk to Freedom

Photo Gallery: The Life of Nelson Mandela