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10 things you didn’t know about Nelson Mandela


It’s hard to keep track of all the incredible things about Nelson Mandela and his accomplishments. We’re clearly inspired by his actions and wisdom, and there’s still even more to know about him! You may remember these 7 facts about Nelson Mandela, and there are a few more to add to the list!

1. His birth name was Rolihlahla Mandela. His primary school teacher gave him the name Nelson.

2. He began his long road to a college degree at the University College of Fort Hare in 1931. He was expelled for participating in a protest against the university’s policies. Mandela eventually received his law degree from the University of South Africa in 1989, during the last months of his imprisonment. He also received honorary degrees from more than 50 universities.

3. After leaving the University College of Fort Hare, the king of his village threatened him and his cousin with arranged marriages. They both ran away to Johannesburg to avoid the marriages.

4. He, along with fellow ANC member Oliver Tambo, established South Africa’s first black law practice in 1952. His practice primarily worked in challenging apartheid laws, including South Africa’s “pass laws,” which required non-white citizens to carry documents authorizing their presence in “restricted” areas.

5. In order to leave the country (which he was banned from doing), he used the name David Motsamayi to get out of South Africa in secret.

6. His activism continued while in prison, both inside its walls and out. He was a mentor to other prisoners and taught them about nonviolent resistance. He also sent notes to the outside world and was a consistent symbol for the anti-apartheid movement.

7. He loved sports and even used them as part of his activism. He believed that sport “has the power to change the world… it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”

8. He was released from prison in 1990 by President Frederik Willem de Klerk. The two now share a Nobel Peace Prize. 2020 marks 30 years since his release from prison.

9. He advocated for HIV/AIDS after one of his sons passed away from AIDS-related illness. Mandela’s public announcement of his son’s condition helped break the stigma of the disease in South Africa: “Let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because the only way to make it appear like a normal illness like tuberculosis, like cancer, is always to come out and to say

10. The year he was elected president of South Africa was also the first year he ever voted in an election in 1994. He was 76 years old.

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