Nelson Mandela: An Indispensable Life in Pictures

Prodigal Son

Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in the village of Mviza in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. His father was a counselor to a local king. He chose for his son the name Rolihlahla, which translated from Xhosa means literally “pulling a branch off a tree” — or, more colloquially, “troublemaker.” A schoolteacher would confer upon him the name Nelson.

Fighting the Law

Mandela and other co-defendants appear at the famous Treason Trial in Johannesburg, 1956. Mandela, along with his longtime ally Oliver Thambo and 154 others, was charged with treason. The case, which dragged on for five years, by which time all were acquitted, brought the struggle of the ANC to international attention.

Partner in Justice

Mandela, center, stands amid a gathering of other co-defendants during the Treason Trial.

The Long Wait

Mandela sews prison clothes by the shore in 1964. He was sent to the infamous jail at Robben Island, a barren rock off the coast near Cape Town, in 1963 in part for his activities supporting the ANC’s militant wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (the Spear of the Nation). His 27-year-long imprisonment made him the world’s most famous political prisoner.

Keeping Hope Alive

Winnie Mandela stands by a portrait of her then husband in their Soweto home, 1985.


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