Nelson Mandela (1918–2013) joined the African National Congress in 1944. Together with Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and others, he helped form the ANC Youth League and was elected its general secretary in 1948 and its president in 1950. He was a central organizer of the mass Defiance Campaign in 1952,...
Nelson Mandela (1918–2013) joined the African National Congress in 1944. Together with Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and others, he helped form the ANC Youth League and was elected its general secretary in 1948 and its president in 1950.
He was a central organizer of the mass Defiance Campaign in 1952, in which thousands challenged the apartheid regime’s internal passport laws and other measures. At the end of that year, Mandela was banned from attending public gatherings—a ban repeatedly renewed over the following nine years. Having been elected ANC deputy national president, Mandela was forced by the apartheid regime to resign officially from the ANC in 1953. Like many other ANC leaders, he was unable to attend the historic Congress of the People in 1955 that adopted the Freedom Charter. In 1956 Mandela and 155 others were arrested on charges of high treason; after four and a half years the defendants were acquitted.
After the ANC’s banning in 1960, Mandela was forced to go underground in April 1961. In face of Pretoria’s cutting off of all legal channels of protest and assembly, Mandela helped found Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) late in 1961 to organize military training for armed operations against the apartheid regime.
In August 1962, after returning to South Africa from travels in Africa and Britain, Mandela was arrested on trumped-up charges and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. After other ANC leaders were arrested at Rivonia in 1963, Mandela—already in prison—was tried for sabotage. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment along with seven others.
Held at the notorious Robben Island prison until 1982, Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor and later Victor Verster prison. As the worldwide campaign for his freedom mounted, he was released without conditions on February 11, 1990.
Elected deputy president by the ANC National Executive Committee in March 1990, Mandela was chosen the organization’s president at the ANC’s 1991 national conference.
He was president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.