The world suffered a great lost when Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and longtime revolutionary, died on December 5th, 2013. Mandela was South Africa’s first black president and the first president that was democratically elected, a feat that was only made possible by Mandela’s decades of political activism. Mandela was an African nationalist and a democratic socialist. He served his country as President of the African Nation Congress (ANC) from 1991-1997. Mandela also served internationally as the Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998-1999.
For most of Mandela’s life, he fought for the freedom of his people. However, many of his actions have been controversial. He was denounced as a communist and even as a terrorist by his critics. However, his efforts, controversial or not, have earned him over 250 honors internationally, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, the British Red Cross Humanity Medal and the International Gandhi Peace Prize. But it is his own country which holds him in the highest regard, where is known by the name Tata, or father. Mandela is frequently called “The Father of the Nation” among his supporters in South Africa.
As an outspoken member of the African National Congress (ANC), Mandela rallied the support of his followers and organized strikes, boycotts and protests against the apartheid political system. Although Mandela tried to adopt Mahatma Gandhi’s position on non-violence when appropriate, he did not shy away from violence when he felt it was necessary. In 1961, Mandela helped form a new group of freedom fighters called Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation, otherwise known as MK. The group promoted guerilla warfare and, although MK is officially separate from the ANC, they later became the ANC’s armed branch.
Mandela’s years of creating political upheaval and disturbance did not go unnoticed by the apartheid politicians. He was first arrested in 1956 for high treason. Although he did not serve any jail time, the event foreshadowed what was to come. In 1962, just one year after his trial ended for high treason, Mandela was arrested and convicted of “conspiracy to overthrow the state” and sentenced to life in prison. Over the course his life, Mandela served over 27 years behind bars.
During his time in prison, Mandela continued his mission. He fought to improve living conditions for his fellow prisoners and took part in work and hunger strikes. He maintained his anti-apartheid activism and formed alliances with other ANC political prisoners, as well as political prisoners from PAC and the Yu Chi Chan Club. During the course of Mandela’s sentence, he continued to study law and even started his autobiography. He received many visits from political figures around the globe. In 1980, the “Free Mandela!” campaign was started, creating international demand for his release. In 1885, the State President, P.W. Botha, offered Mandela freedom under the condition that he ‘”unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon”. Mandela rejected the condition and delivered the statement through his daughter, “What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people [ANC] remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts.”
In 1990, during a time of considerable unrest in South Africa, Mandela was finally released. Botha, who had suffered a stroke, resigned as the leader of the national party and was replaced by F. W. de Klerk. Klerk released Mandela and lifted the ban on all political parties.
Mandela wasted no time after his release. In 1991 he was a key figure in the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). And in 1994, Mandela was elected to be the first black President of South Africa. Throughout his years of presidency, Mandela continued his fight for freedom, domestically and internationally, until he finally stepped down from his position in 1997.
Mandela’s life was filled with turmoil, a fate he gladly suffered for the sake of his people. He was loved by all who stand for freedom. He is considered to be the “the founding father” of democracy in South Africa and racial equality around the globe.
We have an extensive collection of rare, signed and first edition books by Nelson Mandela. We have one of only 250 signed, limited edition copies of Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. You can also find one of only 100 signed copies of A Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles, a signed copy of Prisoner in the Garden, and a signed first edition copy of Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales.