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Mandela Inaugurated As South Africa’s First Black President

Today on May 10, 1994, one billion worldwide viewers tuned in to watch Nelson Mandela’s inauguration ceremony as the country’s first Black President.

Nelson Mandela was undoubtedly the most influential leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. The apartheid was an institutionalized system of racial segregation that existed in the country for more than forty years. South Africa was torn apart by white supremacy and the repression of its black population. In 1944, a young lawyer named Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) and eventually became its deputy president. He passionately opposed the apartheid by advocating for a non-violent end to its existence. However, he quickly became enraged and turned to violence after the police massacred a group of peaceful black demonstrators in Sharpeville.

Throughout 1960, Mandela helped to organize an armed division of the ANC and launched a series of guerrilla attacks against the government. Within four years, he was arrested and charged with sabotage along with other prominent ANC. Mandela received a life sentence in prison and served the majority of his time under horrific conditions at the Robben Island Prison. He was confined to a tiny cell without plumbing or a bed. Nevertheless, he remained committed to the cause and continued to be a symbolic leader of the movement. By 1989, President Frederik Willem de Klerk finally began dismantling the apartheid system and suspended many ANC executions. Mandela was released from prison in the following year.

During the early 1990s, he led the ANC’s negotiations with the white minority government, which helped establish a new multiracial government. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their cooperation. The next year, he won the federal election with 63% of the vote, becoming the country's first black head of state. It was also the first truly democratic election. At the age of 76, Nelson Mandela was formally inaugurated at a ceremony in Pretoria attended by more than 4,000 people — many of whom were prominent world leaders. The internationally televised ceremony had over a billion people tune in to watch the historic event. Mandela served only one term as president before retiring from political life.


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