- History & Culture
How Nelson Mandela fought apartheid—and why his work is not complete
This activist dedicated his life to dismantling racism—and went from being the world’s most famous political prisoner to South Africa’s first Black president.
Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in what was then known as the Union of South Africa, a dominion of the British Empire. Though the majority of its inhabitants were Black, they were dominated by a white minority that controlled the land, the wealth, and the government—a discriminatory social structure that would later be codified in the country’s legal system and called apartheid.
Over the next 95 years, Mandela would help topple South Africa’s brutal social order. During a lifetime of resistance, imprisonment, and leadership, Nelson Mandela led South Africa out of apartheid and into an era of reconciliation and majority rule.
(Read with your kids about Nelson Mandela’s life.)
Mandela began his life under another name: Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela.