Nelson Mandela is released from prison after 27 years

Today on February 11th 1990, Nelson Mandela is released from prison after receiving a lifetime sentence more than 27 years earlier.

Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s most important and influential leader of the anti-apartheid movement. The apartheid was an institutionalized system of racial segregation that existed in South Africa between 1948 and 1991. The country was torn apart by white supremacy and the repression of its black population. In 1944, Mandela became a lawyer and joined the African National Congress (ANC), eventually becoming its deputy president. He passionately opposed the apartheid movement and initially advocated for a non-violent end to its existence.

In 1960, a group of peaceful black demonstrators were massacred at Sharpeville. As a result, Mandela helped organize an armed division of the ANC and launched a series of guerrilla attacks against the government. Within a year, he was arrested and convicted of treason, but acquitted shortly after. In 1964, he was again arrested and charged for sabotage alongside other prominent ANC leaders. This time he was sentenced to life in prison. Mandela 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, Mandela remained unwavering in his resolve and continued to be an important symbolic leader of the movement. By 1989, South Africa’s President, Frederik Willem de Klerk, began dismantling the apartheid. He suspended a number of ANC executions and ordered Mandela’s release from prison the following year. Mandela led the ANC’s negotiations with the white minority government and helped establish a multiracial government. He and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. The next year, Mandela became South Africa’s first black head of state and the first true democratically elected president.

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