Nelson Mandela Comes to America

Nelson Mandela Comes to America

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Before becoming South Africa’s first black president, Mandela spent 27 years behind bars for opposing the ruling apartheid regime, which enforced racial segregation and excluded nonwhites from the political process. With the white minority government under increasing pressure to end its draconian practices, Mandela was finally freed on February 11, 1990. He wasted no time getting back to work, doing press interviews, giving a major speech in front of over 100,000 South Africans and taking his first international trip to nearby Zambia all by the end of the month. From there, Mandela headed to some other African nations and then on to Sweden, where he met with an old friend, Oliver Tambo, the exiled president of the African National Congress political party. That May, Mandela left on a second trip through Africa. And on June 4, he flew to Botswana on the first leg of another tour that would take him to more than a dozen countries, including the United States. Among other things, Mandela hoped to raise money for the African National Congress and to persuade foreign governments to keep strict economic sanctions in place against South Africa.

On June 20, Mandela took a flight from Canada to New York’s Kennedy International Airport, where he made some brief remarks before heading over to a predominantly black high school in Brooklyn. Later in the day, Mandela participated in a ticker-tape parade through lower Manhattan, a ceremony at City Hall in which he received a key to the city and a dinner at the mayor’s mansion. The police reportedly estimated that a staggering 750,000 people came out to view him. “We got to see history,” one of those people, who named her son after Mandela, recently told the New York Times. “It was an overwhelming feeling, knowing how he had stood fast with his beliefs, not agreeing to what wasn’t right.” The next day proved hardly less adulatory, with Mandela attending a church service, taking a motorcade ride through Harlem and appearing at a sold-out rally at Yankee Stadium, where Mayor David Dinkins presented him with a Yankees hat and jacket. “I am a Yankee,” Mandela responded to the delight of the crowd. He then had breakfast with business leaders the following morning at the World Trade Center prior to addressing the United Nations. While in New York, Mandela also squeezed in time for a couple of television news interviews and a fundraising dinner hosted by Hollywood stars Spike Lee and Robert De Niro.

Mandela’s next stop was Boston, the capital of Massachusetts, which a few years earlier had become the first state to divest its pension funds from companies doing business in apartheid South Africa. At a predominantly black high school, Mandela expressed concern that so many students were dropping out. “This is a very disturbing situation, because the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow,” he said. Mandela also visited with two of his daughters who lived in the area, attended a luncheon with the Kennedy family and spoke at a rally along the Charles River, which included musical performances from Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon. He then headed down to Washington, D.C., where he convened with President George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker–despite officially being on the terror watch list. In fact, Mandela would remain on the watch list until 2008, when President George W. Bush signed legislation formally lifting restrictions on Mandela and the ANC that had been in place since the mid-1980s. A day later, Mandela attended a Congressional Black Caucus breakfast and became only the third private citizen to address a joint session of Congress. “Our country, which continues to bleed and suffer pain, needs democracy,” Mandela said. “[…] We fight for and visualize a future in which all shall, without regard to race, color, creed or sex, have the right to vote.”

The remainder of the trip included stops in Atlanta, where Mandela placed a wreath on Martin Luther King Jr.’s tomb, received an honorary degree from several historically black colleges and dropped by the city’s oldest predominantly black church; Miami, where he addressed a labor convention; Detroit, where he was greeted by civil rights icon Rosa Parks, visited a motor vehicle assembly plant and quoted Motown singer Marvin Gaye during an evening rally at Tiger Stadium; Los Angeles, where he spoke at City Hall, attended a fundraising dinner that reportedly raised over $1 million and headlined a star-studded rally at the Memorial Coliseum; and Oakland, where at yet another rally he praised longshoremen who had refused to unload South African goods. In Miami, five Cuban-American mayors blasted him for supporting communist Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and few hundred protestors demonstrated in the streets. Overall, though, enthusiastic crowds vastly outnumbered the scattered critics. Public officials were equally complimentary. The joint session of Congress reportedly gave him 15 standing ovations during his 33-minute speech, Vice President Dan Quayle called him a “symbol of freedom,” and the president of Lafayette College wrote that “no foreigner since Winston Churchill has so seized the imagination of the American people so boldly.”

On June 30, Mandela flew to Ireland, and then on to a few more countries before wrapping up his world tour in mid-July. He returned to New York twice in the next two years in order to address the United Nations, and in 1993 he traveled to multiple U.S. cities as part of a fundraising effort. Then, in October 1994, just a few months after being elected president of South Africa, he made his first official state visit to the United States. More U.S. trips came after his retirement, including a tour of Ground Zero following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and an appearance at the inaugural Tribeca Film Festival in 2002. Yet it is the first visit in 1990, when apartheid was on the verge of toppling, that seems to stand out most in Americans’ minds. “I can’t think of anything that moved me more than that experience,” Dinkins told the New York Times. “The thing that fascinated me most about this great man was his total absence of bitterness.”

The Nelson Mandela Presidency - 1994 to 1999

In 1991, Nelson Mandela was elected the president of the African National Congress (ANC), and his friend and colleague, Oliver Tambo, was elected the ANC’s national chairperson. Mandela continued to negotiate with President F.W. de Klerk toward the country's first non-racial elections.The first plenary session of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA I) began on December 21 1991, at the World Trade Centre in Johannesburg.White South Africans were willing to share power, but many black South Africans wanted a complete transfer of power. The negotiations were tense. Violence across South African townships erupted, followed by the assassination of ANC and South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani on 10 April 1993. Mandela was under pressure and he had to keep a delicate balance of political pressure and intense negotiations in the midst of the demonstrations.

In 1993, Mandela and President de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work towards abolishing apartheid. Negotiations between black and white South Africans prevailed. On 27 April 1994, South Africa held its first democratic elections. The ANC won the election with 62.65 % of the vote. The National Party (NP) received 20.39 %, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) 10.54 %, Freedom Front (FF) 2.2 %, Democratic Party (DP) 1.7 %, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) 1.2 % and the African Christian Democratic Party 0.5 %.

On 10 May 1994, Nelson Mandela, at the age of 77, was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president and F W de Klerk became Mandela’s first deputy. Although the ANC gained a majority vote, they formed the Government of National Unity (GNU), headed by the Mandela.

In 1994, Mandela published an autobiography titled “Long Walk to Freedom” which he secretly wrote while in prison. He also published a number of books on his life and struggles, among them “No Easy Walk to FreedomNelson Mandela: the Struggle is my Life” and “Nelson Mandela's Favourite African Folktales”.In 1995, he was awarded the Order of Merit by FIFA for bringing South Africa back in the international football.

During his presidency, Mandela also worked to protect South Africa's economy from collapse.There was also a serious need to address the economic legacy of apartheid: poverty, inequalities, unequal access to social services and infrastructure, and an economy that had been in crisis for nearly two decades.

In 1994, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) was introduced. The RDP was a South African socio-economic policy framework implemented by the ANC government of Mandela. The ANC's main aim in developing and implementing the RDP, was to address the immense socio-economic problems brought about by Apartheid. Specifically, it set its sights on alleviating poverty and addressing the massive shortfalls in social services across South Africa.Through its RDP, the South African government funded the creation of jobs, housing and basic health care.

Also, as part of his mission for peace, nation-building and reconciliation, Mandela used the nation's enthusiasm for sports as an important point to promote reconciliation between whites and blacks, encouraging black South Africans to support the once-hated all white national rugby team. In 1995, South Africa came to the world stage by hosting the Rugby World Cup, which brought further recognition and prestige to the young republic of South Africa. The Rugby World Cup was won by South Africa, and was the first Rugby World Cup in which every match was held in one country. The World Cup was the first major sporting event to take place in South Africa following the end of apartheid. It was also the first World Cup in which South Africa was allowed to participate.

In 1996, Mandela signed into law a new Constitution for the nation, establishing a strong central government based on majority rule, and guaranteeing both the rights of minorities and the freedom of expression. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, was approved by the Constitutional Court (CC) on 4 December 1996 and took effect on 4 February 1997. The Constitution was founded on the following values: (a) Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms. (b) Non-racialism and non-sexism. (c) Supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law.

In June 1996, the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) macroeconomic policy was introduced. The policy proposed a set of medium-term policies aimed at the rapid liberalization of the South African economy. These policies included a relaxation of exchange controls, privatisation of state assets, trade liberalization, “regulated” flexibility in labour markets, strict deficit reduction targets, and monetary policies aimed at stabilizing the rand through market interest rates.

The Gear policy aimed at strengthening the South African economic development, increasing employment, and redistribution of income and socio-economic opportunities to in favour of the poor people. The key goals of Gear policy were: economic growth of 6% by the year 2000, employment growth above the increase in economically active population, inflation less than 10 percent, a ratio of gross domestic savings of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 12.5 percent in the year 2000, relaxation of exchange controls and reduction of the budget deficit to below 4 percent of GDP.

In 1998, the South African government, under Nelson Mandela, announced that it intended to purchase 28 BAE/SAAB JAS 39 Gripen-fighter aircraft from Sweden at a cost of R10.875 billion, i.e. R388 million (about US$65 million) per plane. The South African Department of Defence's Strategic Defence Acquisition aimed to modernise its defence equipment, which included the purchase of corvettes, submarines, light utility helicopters, lead-in fighter trainers and advanced light fighter aircraft. However, The Arms Deal, as it subsequently came to be known, was accused of corruption. In 2011, sitting President Jacob Zuma announced a commission of enquiry into allegations of fraud, corruption, impropriety or irregularity in the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages.The Commission was chaired by Judge Seriti, a judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal and became known as the Seriti Commission.

In 1999, Mandela retired from active politics. He was called on to help broker peace agreements in Burundi in central Africa serving as a mediator. The Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation for Burundi was signed on 28 August 2000, with the support of the Regional Peace Initiative (RPI) and the international community. Subsequently, the peace processes were consolidated with the signing of two ceasefire agreements. The first of these agreements was signed on 7 October 2002 between the Transitional Government of Burundi (TGoB) and the Burundi Armed Political Parties and Movements (APPMs). The second agreement on 2 December 2002 was between the TGoB and the CNDD-FDD of Pierre Nkurunziza.

In South Africa, Mandela pursued money-raising drives for the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. He would do this by, among other things, inviting business leaders to join him on visits to settlements of poor people, where he would have them pledge donations, particularly for schools and classrooms. Such facilities have become known as the products of "Madiba magic”.

A democracy to come

The year 2020 will long be remembered as one of extraordinary challenge and widespread suffering. It was also a year which saw the re-emergence of human solidarities on a scale not seen in decades. History may very well come to regard the year of Covid-19 as one of those pivotal moments for humanity, and indeed for other species of the Earth.

Covid-19 brought with it a sense of both peril and promise. It has exposed in cruel ways what human societies had come to normalise – inequality, racism and ecological depredation. It has taken many lives – at the time of writing, confirmed Covid-related deaths globally have passed 1,4-million - and destroyed many more. And it is calling us to change human behaviours fundamentally.

Societies around the world will be carrying the wounds of Covid-19 into the future. The loss of loved ones, of jobs, of livelihoods, of dignity and hope, will resonate for generations. And what a myriad of people will be carrying the wounds of not being able to be with loved ones dying in hospital wards, nor of being able to find the succour of ritual and farewell through attending funerals.

In terms of loss, 2020 has been a heavy year for the Foundation. We have mourned the passing of so many people connected to Madiba and to the Foundation. Zindzi Mandela. Anna Gadikaenyana Mosehle. Denis Goldberg. Andrew Mlangeni. George Bizos. Achmat Dangor. Shaun Johnson. David Dinkins. John Lewis. Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Diego Maradona. Many of our staff members have had to deal with loss in their families and communities. We remember all those who have passed, and honour those who have carried loss with fortitude.

In the early months of Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa, the crisis of food insecurity and people literally starving loomed largest in a medley of challenges. The Foundation responded by inaugurating the Each1 Feed1 campaign in partnership with the Kolisi and Imbumba foundations. An emergency relief initiative focused on food delivery, Each1 Feed1 has taken us all around the country and exposed us to the best and the worst of our current realities – from the extraordinary resilience displayed by vulnerable people, to corruption from local officials and public representatives, from the generosity and solidarity of donors to delivery failures by structures of the state.

Repeatedly on Each1 Feed1 community visits the Foundation team has encountered how poverty humiliates people and has seen how retaining dignity in the depths of deprivation is a priority for so many. I will never forget the old man who received a food parcel at a township delivery point and tried to resist the team accompanying him until he was safely home. He didn’t want us to see the deplorable state his home was in. In that moment I learned again that dignity is arguably the most fundamental human right of all.

As Arundhati Roy has argued, COVID-19 not only entered human bodies and amplified existing vulnerability, it also entered society and amplified multiple intersecting structural inequalities. During his Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in July, United Nations Secretary-General Gutteres echoed this view:

“The pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of our world. It has laid bare risks we have ignored for decades: inadequate health systems gaps in social protection structural inequalities environmental degradation the climate crisis.”

Here in South Africa, as in many other countries, we have seen the pandemic amplify patriarchy and gender-based violence, white supremacy and racism. Covid-19 has laid bare the structures which condemn millions of people to lives of what Frantz Fanon called many years ago "wretchedness". Too many yearn in vain for the experience of freedom. Too many are discarded and can barely survive. Too many know that their lives don’t matter to those who hold power. Too many are losing their dignity no matter how hard they fight to keep it. It is clear as it has never been before that what economist Thomas Piketty calls “the global inequality regime” is unsustainable. While elites around the world have sought to normalise it, we must insist that it is not normal. And we must demand that it is time for a new normal to be fashioned. Covid-19 presents a global crisis unprecedented in recent times, but at the same time it brings with it opportunity to begin the work of refashioning. The virus colliding with the killing of George Floyd in the United States provoked a momentous global recalling of too many deaths and a demanding that structures of racism be dismantled once and for all. What an opportunity for the nations of the world.

This is not work which can be accomplished overnight. And it is not work which can be done successfully without international co-operation. As Piketty argues in his book Capital and Ideology, dismantling the inequality regime is unimaginable without transnational justice and a move towards what he calls global federalism. The various forms of nationalist and identitarian retreat which we see gathering pace across the world will undermine fundamentally attempts to build a new world order. As Secretary-General Gutteres said in his July lecture:

“COVID-19 is a human tragedy. But it has also created a generational opportunity. An opportunity to build back a more equal and sustainable world. The response to the pandemic, and to the widespread discontent that preceded it, must be based on a New Social Contract and a New Global Deal that create equal opportunities for all, and respect the rights and freedoms of all.”

For some years now, the Nelson Mandela Foundation has been grappling with the implications of a democracy that is not working well for the majority of people in society and which is failing them in fundamental ways. The international Mandela Dialogues on Memory Work (2013-2017) enabled us to explore these lines of enquiry with professional colleagues in fifteen other countries. What is being seen globally, we have argued, are forms of state capture which are best understood in terms of the capture of democracy itself. Democracy, as with all forms of regulating sociality, relies on what could be called a social imaginary - at the heart of which are the notions of "the social contract" and "the public good". The evidence suggests that democracy’s social imaginary needs revisiting, renewal and reimagining. Perhaps not surprisingly, the South African state and many other democratic states have invoked both the social contract and the public good during the Covid-19 crisis, at the very moment that they have revoked (or suspended) rights (for the public good) and, in some instances, sanctioned extraordinary use of force by security units.

That humanity needs a new social imaginary is beyond question. Reliance on the notion of a social contract, however, is problematic. In South Africa we have seen how state-initiated forums drawing on and promoting social contract theory (for instance, NEDLAC – the National Economic Development and Labour Council) have promised much, but delivered too little. The ways in which the concept is being mobilised in current contexts is troubling. As is its rootedness in Western modernist (and therefore colonialist and imperialist) history. And the concept of "contract" is embedded in capitalist and legal frames of reference that are less than helpful. As Walter Benjamin argued, “the contract is the beginning of legal violence.”

What could be called a democracy-to-come, a renewed democracy, one which works for all who live in a particular polity, will draw on a social imaginary which mediates social life – regulates sociality – in liberatory ways. What might this look like? Thinking outside the frame of contract, and drawing on the work of care economy theorists, feminist economists and scholars of intersectionality and postcoloniality, the Nelson Mandela Foundation is positing what Judith Butler has termed “a social philosophy of living and sustainable bonds” – a philosophy which recognises, prioritises and nurtures interrelationality and interdependence. In this conceptual space: "care" comes before "competition", "provisioning" before "growth", "sharing" before "accumulation", "liveability" before "existence" and "sustaining" replaces "extracting" and "discarding". And constitutionalism becomes about transformation rather than about protecting power, privilege and property. Neoliberalism over the last three decades has been the engine of a rampant individualism and a privileging of competition, growth, accumulation and extraction. No accident, in these contexts, that inequality globally has reached levels last seen in the late eighteenth century (as Piketty’s work has demonstrated) and that great swathes of humanity are simply being discarded. And no accident that the rates of extinction of non-human species and irreversible damage to the environment have reached alarming levels.

It is time to stop relying on the reproduction of individualism and contracted protections. It is time, instead, to reorient public discourses in relation both to ancient ways of knowing and to new ways of thinking. It is time to foreground the common in "the common good". It is time to reconsider social bonds as, in the words of American philosopher Judith Butler, “based in embodied forms of interdependency.” These are bonds which find expression in practical ways and at multiple levels bonds which are made and remade by people ‘on the ground’. And it is time to cast the net of interdependency far beyond ‘the human’ – as Butler argues:

“It is not just other human lives, but other sensate creatures, environments, and infrastructures: we depend upon them, and they depend on us, in turn, to sustain a liveable world.”

For the Foundation, social bond thinking will be a primary line of enquiry as we seek to contribute to imagining a liberatory post-Covid world. Thinking differently has become imperative. And doing differently, finding a liberatory praxis, is equally important.

Next year will see the 25 th anniversary of South Africa’s Constitution. The Foundation will be marking this moment by insisting that 25 years is too long for anyone to wait for statutory rights to become a lived reality for them. We will continue to promote a constitutionalism which demands transformation and prioritises the protection of dignity before all else. Recognising interdependency and building bonds will come to naught if this kind of constitutionalism does not take root in our country.

The Treason Trial

Mandela was arrested in a countrywide police swoop on 5 December 1956, which led to the 1956 Treason Trial. Men and women of all races found themselves in the dock in the marathon trial that only ended when the last 28 accused, including Mandela, were acquitted on 29 March 1961.

On 21 March 1960 police killed 69 unarmed people in a protest in Sharpeville against the pass laws. This led to the country’s first state of emergency and the banning of the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) on 8 April. Mandela and his colleagues in the Treason Trial were among thousands detained during the state of emergency.

During the trial Mandela married a social worker, Winnie Madikizela, on 14 June 1958. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. The couple divorced in 1996.

Days before the end of the Treason Trial, Mandela travelled to Pietermaritzburg to speak at the All-in Africa Conference, which resolved that he should write to Prime Minister Verwoerd requesting a national convention on a non-racial constitution, and to warn that should he not agree there would be a national strike against South Africa becoming a republic. After he and his colleagues were acquitted in the Treason Trial, Mandela went underground and began planning a national strike for 29, 30 and 31 March.

In the face of massive mobilisation of state security the strike was called off early. In June 1961 he was asked to lead the armed struggle and helped to establish Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation), which launched on 16 December 1961 with a series of explosions.

Madiba travelled with his Ethiopian passport.

(Image: © National Archives of South Africa)

On 11 January 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Mandela secretly left South Africa. He travelled around Africa and visited England to gain support for the armed struggle. He received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and returned to South Africa in July 1962. He was arrested in a police roadblock outside Howick on 5 August while returning from KwaZulu-Natal, where he had briefed ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli about his trip.

He was charged with leaving the country without a permit and inciting workers to strike. He was convicted and sentenced to five years' imprisonment, which he began serving at the Pretoria Local Prison. On 27 May 1963 he was transferred to Robben Island and returned to Pretoria on 12 June. Within a month police raided Liliesleaf, a secret hideout in Rivonia, Johannesburg, used by ANC and Communist Party activists, and several of his comrades were arrested.

On 9 October 1963 Mandela joined 10 others on trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. While facing the death penalty his words to the court at the end of his famous "Speech from the Dock" on 20 April 1964 became immortalised:

On 11 June 1964 Mandela and seven other accused, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni, were convicted and the next day were sentenced to life imprisonment. Goldberg was sent to Pretoria Prison because he was white, while the others went to Robben Island.

Mandela’s mother died in 1968 and his eldest son, Thembi, in 1969. He was not allowed to attend their funerals.

On 31 March 1982 Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town with Sisulu, Mhlaba and Mlangeni. Kathrada joined them in October. When he returned to the prison in November 1985 after prostate surgery, Mandela was held alone. Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee visited him in hospital. Later Mandela initiated talks about an ultimate meeting between the apartheid government and the ANC.

A picture captured during a rare visit from his comrades at Victor Verster Prison.

(Image: © National Archives of South Africa)


To condense all of Mr Nelson Mandela's achievements into one chronology would be impossible as a result, we do not claim that our work here is comprehensive. Below you will find a chronology of important events in his life. It is a work in progress and we are happy to receive your comments or additions.

Born Rolihlahla Mandela at Mvezo in the Transkei

Attends primary school near Qunu (receives the name ‘Nelson’ from a teacher)

Father dies. Entrusted to Thembu Regent Jongintaba Dalindyebo at the age of 12

While his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom places Mandela's father’s death in 1927, historical evidence shows it must have been later, most likely 1930. In fact, the original Long Walk to Freedom manuscript (written on Robben Island) states the year as 1930.

Undergoes initiation Attends Clarkebury Boarding Institute in Engcobo

Attends Healdtown, the Wesleyan College at Fort Beaufort

Enrols at the University College of Fort Hare, in Alice

Escapes an arranged marriage becomes a mine security officer starts articles at the law firm Witkin, Sidelsky & Eidelman

Completes BA through the University of South Africa (UNISA)

Begins to attend African National Congress (ANC) meetings informally

Graduates with BA from Fort Hare Enrols for an LLB at Wits University

Co-founds the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) marries Evelyn Ntoko Mase – they have four children: Thembekile (1945) Makaziwe (1947 – who dies after nine months) Makgatho (1950) Makaziwe (1954)

Elected national secretary of the ANCYL

Elected President of the ANCYL

Defiance Campaign begins Arrested and charged for violating the Suppression of Communism Act Elected Transvaal ANC President Convicted with J.S Moroka, Walter Sisulu and 17 others under the Suppression of Communism Act Sentenced to nine months imprisonment with hard labour, suspended for two years Elected first of ANC deputy presidents Opens law firm with Oliver Tambo - the only black law firm in Johannesburg in the 1950s

Devises the M-Plan for the ANC’s future underground operations

Watches as the Congress of the People at Kliptown adopts the Freedom Charter

Arrested and later joins 155 others on trial for teason. All are acquitted by 29 March 1961

Divorces Evelyn Mase Marries Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela – they have two daughters: Zenani (1959) and Zindzi (1960)

A State of Emergency is imposed and he is among thousands detained

Goes underground Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) is formed

Leaves the country for military training and to garner support for the ANC

Arrested near Howick in KwaZulu-Natal

Sentenced to five years in prison for incitement and leaving the country without a passport

Appears in court for the first time in what becomes known as the Rivonia Trial, with Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Lionel 'Rusty' Bernstein, Raymond Mhlaba, James Kantor, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni

Pleads not guilty to sabotage in the Rivonia Trial

James Kantor discharged and released

Thembekile is killed in a car accident

Mandela, Sisulu, Raymond Mhlaba and Andrew Mlangeni and later Ahmed Kathrada are sent to Pollsmoor Prison

Rejects, through his daughter, Zindzi, South African President PW Botha's offer to release him if he renounces violence

Admitted to the Volks Hospital for prostate surgery

Discharged from Volks Hospital and returned to Pollsmoor Prison

Admitted to Tygerberg Hospital where he is diagnosed with tuberculosis

Admitted to Constantiaberg MediClinic

Moved to Victor Verster Prison in Paarl where he is held for 14 months in a cottage

Elected ANC Deputy President

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with President FW de Klerk

Votes for the first time in his life

Elected by Parliament as first president of a democratic South Africa

Inaugurated as President of the Republic of South Africa

Establishes the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund

Marries Graça Machel on his 80th birthday

Steps down after one term as President, establishes the Nelson Mandela Foundation

Diagnosed with prostate cancer

Establishes the Mandela Rhodes Foundation

Announces that he will be stepping down from public life

Announces that his eldest son Makgatho had died of AIDS

Attends the installation of his grandson Mandla as chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council

Votes for the fourth time in his life Attends the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma on 9 May and witnesses Zuma's first State of the Nation address Turns 91

Formally presented with the Fifa World Cup trophy before it embarks on a tour of South Africa

His great-granddaughter Zenani is killed in a car accident

Attends the funeral of his great-granddaughter Zenani

Makes a surprise appearance at the final of the Fifa World Cup in Soweto

Celebrates his 92nd birthday at home in Johannesburg with family and friends

His second book Conversations with Myself is published

Meets the South African and American football teams that played in the Nelson Mandela Challenge match

Admitted to hospital in Johannesburg. Discharged after two nights

Votes in the local government elections

His book Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations is launched

Visited at home by American First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters Sasha and Malia

Nelson Mandela fought hard to secure an acquittal of the charges of treason

In December, 1956, Mandela and several ANC members were put on trial for treason. The Treason Trial of 1956 (as it came to be called) saw Mandela and his defense attorney Vernon Berrangé put up a strong defense against the prosecution. On March 21, 1960, the infamous and bloody Sharpeville massacre took place. The protest, which started peacefully, ended up claiming the lives of at least 69 unarmed protesters as the authorities clamped on them.

The government imposed a state of emergency and the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress were banned. Mandela and his ANC members were rounded up and detained under the state of emergency regulations. In the end, he and his fellow ANC members were acquitted on March 29, 1961.

Nelson Mandela Timeline

Nelson Mandela, in full Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, (born July 18, 1918, Mvezo, Cape Province, Union of South Africa [now South Africa]—died December 5, 2013, Johannesburg, Gauteng), 1 st democratically elected President of South Africa (1994–99). Revered across the world for his unflinching dedication to democracy, peace and reconciliation following the end of apartheid, Nelson Mandela was without a doubt South Africa’s greatest leader and politician. Born into the Xhosa royal family, Mandela would spend close to three decades (1962-1990) imprisoned for his fierce resistance against institutionalized racism and brutal racial segregation laws in apartheid South Africa.

The timeline below captures the major events that took place in the life of Nelson Mandela, Africa’s greatest icon of democracy and social justice.

1918: Born in a village in Umtata, Cape Province (July 18)

1915: Mandela’s father- Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa Mandela – is made a local chief and advisor to the king of the Thembu People

1925: Enrolls at Methodist primary school near Qunu

1930: After the death of his father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa Mandela, he is placed under the guardianship of a local Thembu elder known as Jongintaba Dalindyebo

1934: Goes through a Thembu circumscision called the Ulwaluko Circumcision

1937: Attends the Wesleyan College at Fort Beaufort

1939: Secures admission to the University College of Fort Hare

1940: Got expelled from school

1941: Takes up a security officer position in a bid to avoid an arranged marriage

1942: Graduates with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Africa

1942: Participates in meetings of the African National Congress (ANC)

1943: Earns a BA from Fort Hare and proceeds to study law at Wits University

1944: Involved in the setting up of the Youth League of the ANC

1944: Marries Evelyn Ntoko Mase the couple went on to have four children – Thembekile (1945) Makaziwe (1947) Makgatho (1950) Makaziwe (1954)

1948: The ANC elects him as the national secretary of the Youth League

1952: Features heavily in the Defiance Campaign of 1950s

1952: Elected Transvaal ANC President

1952: Charged under the Suppression of Communism Act and is sentenced to nine months in prison

1952: Establishes a law firm called Oliver Tambo – the first black law firm in the country

1953: Develops the famous M-Plan for the ANC

1956: Briefly put behind bars and charged with treason

1958: Marriage with Evelyn Mase comes to an end with a divorce

1958: Marries Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela the marriage produces two children – Zenani (1959) and Zindzi (1960)

1960: Taken aback by the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 the authorities imprison him along with several members of the ANC

1960: The ANC is outlawed by the authorities (April 8)

1961: Establishes the underground militant group known as the Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation)

1962: Goes into exile outside South Africa and returns with ample military training and experience

1962: The authorities arrest him and other ANC members in KwaZulu-Natal

1962: Slapped with a five-year prison sentence

1963: Transferred to a prison on Robben Island (May 27) only for him to be brought back to Pretoria Local Prison on June 12.

1963: Court proceedings begin in what became known as the Rivonia Trial

1964: Convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison (June 12)

1982: Authorities move Nelson Mandela and a number of political prisoners to the Pollsmoor Prison

1985: Turns down the apartheid government’s conditional offer which requires him to reject his anti-segregation struggles

1985: Undergoes a prostate surgery at the Volks Hospital

1988: Doctors at Tygerberg Hospital diagnose him with tuberculosis

1990: The ban on the ANC is lifted

1990: After 27 years, he is released from prison

1990: Gets elected Deputy President of the ANC

1993: Along with President FW de Klerk, Nelson Mandela receives the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize

April 27, 1994: Casts his first ever vote in his life

May 9, 1994: The South African Parliament elects him president of the nation

May 10, 1990: Sworn into office as the President of South Africa – the country’s first black president

December 14, 1990: Releases “Long Walk to Freedom”, an autobiography that went on to make huge waves across the world

1995: Sets up the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund

1996: Marriage to Winnie Mandela ends in a divorce

1998: Gets married to Graça Machel, a former Mozambican politician and widow of former president of Mozambique Samora Machel

1999: Opts not to seek re-election instead he devotes his time to his foundation – the Nelson Mandela Foundation

2001: Doctors diagnose him with prostate cancer

2003: Sets up the Mandela Rhodes Foundation

2004: Removes himself from public life to focus on his family

2005: Makgatho – his eldest son – dies of AIDS

2007: Mandela’s grandson is made chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council

2009: Celebrates his 90 th birthday

2010: In the lead up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals in South Africa, Mandela participates in a FIFA World Cup event, where he is presented with the trophy

June 11, 2010: Loses his great-granddaughter Zenani in a car crash

October 12, 2010: Releases his second book titled “Conversations with Myself”

2011: Then First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama and her children pay a visit to Mandela

December, 2012: Spends three weeks in hospital

March, 2013: Moves in and out of hospital on two occasions

July 18, 2013: Attains the age of 95

December 5, 2013: Dies at his Johannesburg home respiratory complications were the cause death

Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition

The Milwaukee Public Museum and America’s Black Holocaust Museum are partnering for the United States debut of Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition, a new, global-touring exhibition that takes visitors on a personal journey through the life of the world’s most iconic freedom-fighter and political leader. Designed to educate, entertain, and inspire, this immersive and interactive exhibition features previously unseen film, photos, and the display of more than 150 historical artifacts and personal effects on loan from the Mandela family, museums, and archives worldwide.

Through a series of immersive zones – each one a dramatically different experience – the narrative takes us on a journey through a remarkable life and provides fresh insight into the people, places, and events that formed his character and the challenges he faced.

Discover Nelson Mandela’s epic story of heroic struggle, forgiveness, and compassion explored in new, personal, and revealing ways.

Visitors will go back in time to the rural childhood home that shaped the great leader that he became. See the years of turbulent struggle against the apartheid regime and learn how his remarkable spirit remained unbroken, but at great personal cost. Relive the global celebration of his release after 27 years in prison, and his historic ascent as South Africa’s first democratically elected president.

With wisdom from the man himself plus exclusive insights from his family and those that knew him best, visitors will see Nelson Mandela in a new light. A century since his birth and seven years since his passing, what does "Nelson Mandela" mean today, in a world where inequality and injustice are still rife? Mandela: The Official Exhibition asks these difficult questions and examines his legacy. Nelson Mandela’s values and unshakable belief in a better world are as vital now as they were during his lifetime.

Community Council

The Mandela: The Official Exhibition Advisory Council members are proud to make this exhibition as meaningful as possible for the community.

Honorary Co-Chairs

Billye and the late Henry "Hank" Aaron (photo credit: Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club)
Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes

MPM is joining with our country in mourning the loss of Hank Aaron, a champion of civil rights and social justice. Milwaukee was blessed by his life and career in our city, and MPM was blessed by his early and enthusiastic support of us hosting the world premier of this exhibit. His legacy will live on.

Generous Support Provided by:

Bader Philanthropies, Inc.
Brewers Community Foundation
David & Madeleine Lubar, Susan Lubar, and the Joan Lubar and John Crouch family
US Bank
Schoenleber Foundation
Alvin & Marian Birnschein Foundation
Bert L. & Patricia S. Steigleder Charitable Trust
Ralph & Margaret Hollmon

Official Hotel Partner
Exhibit Programming
My Mandela Pledge

We're challenging you to continue Nelson Mandela's journey and take our "My Mandela Pledge"!

Community Spotlight

What's going on around Wisconsin in conjunction with this exhibit?

Events and More

We've partnered with organizations and partners to bring you special programs!

For Teachers

Educator Resources
A range of free programs, resources, and virtual experiences to connect your students with this exhibit.

MPS Curriculum Resources
These specially designed activities connect the MPS 4th-grade People Protest for Change unit to this exhibit.

No more Mr Nice Guy

Say what you like about Nelson Mandela, but he is not a man known to bear a grudge or lose his temper easily. Having waited 27 years for his freedom, he emerged from jail to preach peace and reconciliation to a nation scarred by racism. When he finally made the transition from the world's most famous prisoner to the world's most respected statesman, he invited his former jailer to the inauguration.

So when he criticises US foreign policy in terms every bit as harsh as those he used to condemn apartheid, you know something is up. In the past few weeks, he has issued a "strong condemnation" of the US's attitude towards Iraq, lambasted vice-president Dick Cheney for being a "dinosaur" and accused the US of being "a threat to world peace".

Coming from other quarters, such criticisms would have been dismissed by both the White House and Downing Street as the words of appeasement, anti-Americanism or leftwing extremism. But Mandela is not just anyone. Towering like a moral colossus over the late 20th century, his voice carries an ethical weight like no other. He rode to power on a global wave of goodwill, left office when his five years were up and settled down to a life of elder statesmanship. So the belligerent tone he has adopted of late suggests one of two things either that some thing is very wrong with the world, or that something is very wrong with Mandela.

What Mandela believes is wrong with the world is not difficult to fathom. He is annoyed at how the US is exploiting its overwhelming military might. Earlier this month, after President Bush would not take his calls, he spoke to secretary of state Colin Powell and then the president's father, asking the latter to discourage his son from attacking Iraq.

"What right has Bush to say that Iraq's offer is not genuine?" he asked on Monday. "We must condemn that very strongly. No country, however strong, is entitled to comment adversely in the way the US has done. They think they're the only power in the world. They're not and they're following a dangerous policy. One country wants to bully the world."

Having supported the bombing of Afghanistan, he cannot be dismissed as a peacenik. But his assessment of the current phase of Bush's war on terror is as damning as anything coming out of the Arab world. "If you look at these matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace."

And then there is the dreaded "r" word. Accusations of discrimination do not fall often or easily from Mandela's lips, but when they do, the world is forced to sit up and listen. So far, he has fallen short of accusing the west of racism in its dealings with the developing world, but he has implied sympathy with those who do. "When there were white secretary generals, you didn't find this question of the US and Britain going out of the UN. But now that you've had black secretary generals, such as Boutros Boutros Ghali and Kofi Annan, they do not respect the UN. This is not my view, but that is what is being said by many people."

Most surprising in these broadsides has been his determination to point out particular individuals for blame. As a seasoned political hand, Mandela has previously eschewed personal invective but has clearly made an exception when it comes to Cheney. In 1986, Cheney voted against a resolution calling for his release because of his alleged support for "terrorism". Mandela insists that he is not motivated by pique. "Quite clearly we are dealing with an arch-conservative in Dick Cheney. my impression of the president is that this is a man with whom you can do business. But it is the men around him who are dinosaurs, who do not want him to belong to the modern age."

In fact, behind the scenes, the White House is attempting to portray Mandela, now 84, as something of a dinosaur himself - the former leader of an African country, embittered by the impotence that comes with retirement and old age. It is a charge they have found difficult to make stick. Mandela has never been particularly encumbered by delusions of grandeur. When asked whether he would be prepared to mediate in the current dispute, he replied. "If I am asked by credible organisations to mediate, I will consider that very seriously. But a situation of this nature does not need an individual, it needs an organisation like the UN to mediate. A man who has lost power and influence can never be a suitable mediator."

In truth, since leaving office he has shown consummate diplomatic skill. In 1999, he persuaded Libyan leader Colonel Gadafy to hand over the two alleged intelligence agents indicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. He was touted as a possible mediator in the Middle East - a suggestion quashed by the Israeli government, which was apartheid's chief arms supplier.

Last year he was personally involved in the arrangement - sanctioned by the UN - to send South African troops to Burundi as a confidence-building measure in a bid to forestall a Rwandan-style genocide. That does not mean he always gets it right. He advocated a softly-softly diplomatic approach towards the Nigerian regime when Ken Saro-Wiwa was on death row. Saro-Wiwa was murdered and Abacha's regime remained intact. Nor does it mean that he is above criticism. Arguably, he could have done more to redistribute wealth during his term in office in South Africa, and he maintained strong diplomatic relations with some oppressive regimes, such as Indonesia. In July, a representative of those killed in the Lockerbie disaster described Mandela's call for the bomber to be transferred to a muslim country as "outrageous". But it does mean that he is above the disparagement and disdain usually shown to leaders of the developing world that the west find awkward.

But if there is something wrong with Mandela it is chiefly that for the past decade he has been thoroughly and wilfully misunderstood. He has been portrayed as a kindly old gent who only wanted black and white people to get on, rather than a determined political activist who wished to redress the power imbalance between the races under democratic rule. In the years following his release, the west wilfully mistook his push for peace and reconciliation not as the vital first steps to building a consensus that could in turn build a battered nation but as a desire to both forgive and forget.

When he displayed a lack of personal malice, they saw an abundance of political meekness. There is an implicit racism in this that goes beyond Mandela to the way in which the west would like black leaders to behave. After slavery and colonialism, comes the desire to draw a line under the past and a veil over its legacy. So long as they are preaching non-violence in the face of aggression, or racial unity where there has been division, then everyone is happy. But as soon as they step out of that comfort zone, the descent from saint to sinner is a rapid one. The price for a black leader's entry to the international statesman's hall of fame is not just the sum of their good works but either death or half of their adult life behind bars.

In order to be deserving of accolades, history must first be rewritten to deprive them of their militancy. Take Martin Luther King, canonised after his death by the liberal establishment but vilified in his last years for making a stand against America's role in Vietnam. One of his aides, Andrew Young, recalled: "This man who had been respected worldwide as a Nobel Prize winner suddenly applied his non-violence ethic and practice to the realm of foreign policy. And no, people said, it's all right for black people to be non-violent when they're dealing with white people, but white people don't need to be non-violent when they're dealing with brown people."

So it was for Mandela when he came to Britain in 1990, after telling reporters in Dublin that the British government should talk to the IRA, presaging developments that took place a few years later. The then leader of the Labour party, Neil Kinnock, called the remarks "extremely ill-advised" Tory MP Teddy Taylor said the comments made it "difficult for anyone with sympathy for the ANC and Mandela to take him seriously."

He made similar waves in the US when he refused to condemn Yasser Arafat, Colonel Gadafy and Fidel Castro. Setting great stock by the loyalty shown to both him and his organisation during the dog days of apartheid, he has consistently maintained that he would stick by those who stuck by black South Africa. It was wrong, he told Americans, to suggest that "our enemies are your enemies. We are a liberation movement and they support our struggle to the hilt."

This, more than anything, provides the US and Britain with their biggest problem. They point to pictures of him embracing Gaddafi or transcripts of his support for Castro as evidence that his judgment has become flawed over the years. But what they regard as his weakness is in fact his strength. He may have forgiven, but he has not forgotten. His recent criticisms of America stretch back over 20 years to its "unqualified support of the Shah of Iran [which] lead directly to the Islamic revolution of 1979".

The trouble is not that, when it comes to his public pronouncements, Mandela is acting out of character. But that, when it comes to global opinion, the US and Britian are increasingly out of touch.
Additional reporting by Shirley Brooks.

Prison years

Mandela wasn’t put to death—but, in 1964, he was sentenced to life in prison. He was allowed only one 30-minute visit with a single person every year, and could send and receive two letters a year. Confined in austere conditions, he worked in a limestone quarry and over time, earned the respect of his captors and fellow prisoners. He was given chances to leave prison in exchange for ensuring the ANC would give up violence but refused.

Over his 27 years of imprisonment, Mandela became the world’s best-known political prisoner. His words were banned in South Africa, but he was already the country’s most famous man. His supporters agitated for his release and news of his imprisonment galvanized anti-apartheid activists all over the world.

In the 1960s, some members of the United Nations began to call for sanctions against South Africa—calls that grew louder in the decades that followed. Eventually, South Africa became an international pariah. In 1990, in response to international pressure and the threat of civil war, South Africa’s new president, F.W. de Klerk, pledged to end apartheid and released Mandela from prison.

Apartheid did not immediately end with Mandela’s release. Now 71, Mandela negotiated with de Klerk for a new constitution that would allow majority rule. Apartheid was repealed in 1991, and in 1994, the ANC, now a political party, won more than 62 percent of the popular vote in a peaceful, democratic election. Mandela—who now shares a Nobel Peace Prize with de Klerk—became the president of a new nation, South Africa. (Here's how South Africa has changed since the end of apartheid.)

Nelson Mandela: Six things you didn’t know

1. He was a boxing fan. In his youth, Nelson Mandela enjoyed boxing and long-distance running. Even during the 27 years he spent in prison, he would exercise every morning.

"I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it. I was intrigued by how one moved one's body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced oneself over a match," he wrote in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.

"Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, colour and wealth are irrelevant. I never did any real fighting after I entered politics. My main interest was in training I found the rigorous exercise to be an excellent outlet for tension and stress. After a strenuous workout, I felt both mentally and physically lighter," he wrote.

Among the memorabilia in the Mandela Family Museum in Soweto, visitors can find the world championship belt given to Mandela by American boxer Sugar Ray Leonard.

2. His original name was not Nelson. Rolihlahla Mandela was nine years old when a teacher at the primary Methodist school where he was studying in Qunu, South Africa, gave him an English name - Nelson - in accordance with the custom to give all school children Christian names.

This was common practice in South Africa and in other parts of the continent, where a person could often be given an English name that foreigners would find easier to pronounce.

Rolihlahla is not a common name in South Africa. It is Xhosa, one of the 11 official languages in the country, spoken by about 18% of the population. It literally means "pulling the branch of a tree", but its colloquial meaning is "troublemaker".

His circumcision name was Dalibunga, meaning "founder of the Bunga", the traditional ruling body of the Transkei - the rural area where he was born. "To Xhosa traditionalists, this name is more acceptable than either of my two previous given names," he wrote in his autobiography. However, in South Africa, Mr Mandela was often called by his clan name - Madiba - which South Africans used out of respect.

3. He was on a US terror watch list until 2008. Prior to that, along with other former ANC leaders, Mr Mandela was only able to visit the US with special permission from the secretary of state, because the ANC had been designated a terrorist organisation by South Africa's former apartheid government.

"It is frankly a rather embarrassing matter that I still have to waive in my own counterparts - the foreign minister of South Africa, not to mention the great leader, Nelson Mandela," then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in 2008.

The bill scrapping the designation was introduced by Howard Berman, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, who promised to "wipe away" the "indignity".

Ronald Reagan originally placed the ANC on the list in the 1980s.

4. He forgot his glasses when he was released from prison. Mr Mandela's release on 11 February 1990 followed years of political pressure against apartheid. On the day, he was "astounded and a little bit alarmed", he recalled later.

Mr Mandela and his then-wife Winnie were taken to the centre of Cape Town to address a huge and euphoric crowd. But when he pulled out the text of his speech, he realised he had forgotten his glasses and had to borrow Winnie's.

5. He dressed up as a chauffeur to evade police. After going underground because of his ANC activities, Mr Mandela's ability to evade the securities services earned him the nickname "the black Pimpernel", after the novel The Scarlet Pimpernel, about a hero with a secret identity.

Mr Mandela is known to have disguised himself as a chauffeur, a gardener and a chef in order to travel around the country unnoticed by the authorities. Nobody seems to know how Mr Mandela, who had been operating underground with a false identity, was ultimately exposed and arrested.

6. He had his own law firm, but it took him years to get a law degree. Mr Mandela studied law on and off for 50 years from 1939, failing about half the courses he took.

A two-year diploma in law on top of his university degree allowed him to practise, and in August 1952, he and Oliver Tambo established South Africa's first black law firm, Mandela and Tambo, in Johannesburg.

Watch the video: Boyd Varty: What I learned from Nelson Mandela