The son of a tribal chief, Nelson Mandela began his opposition to South Africa’s government policies while attending college. He went on to become a lawyer and joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944.
For two decades he led the fight against apartheid’s racist policies, until he was sentenced to life in prison for sabotage in 1964. The long campaign for his release succeeded in 1990 and the newly legalized ANC elected him their president the next year. His national call for forgiveness of his enemies helped to bring calm to the country.
His negotiations with then President F. W. de Klerk led to South Africa’s first multi-racial presidential election in 1994. Mandela easily won the election.
He retired in 1999. Today he writes, heads the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, works tirelessly against AIDS and other diseases ravaging the continent. Still the African “tribal elder”, he is frequently asked to take leading roles in peace negotiations in his neighboring countries.