Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, to mother Nonqaphi Nosekeni and father Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela into the Madiba clan in South Africa. His father, who was a nobleman and counselor to a junior prince of the clan, died when Mandela was a child.
He was christened “Nelson” by his teacher in primary school. His experience with secondary education was, to say the least, tumultuous. He finished a B.A. degree through the University of South Africa in 1943 after being expelled from the University of Fort Hare for participating in a student protest. He began his studies for a Bachelor of Laws degree and only obtained it through the University of South Africa after his imprisonment in 1989.
Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1944, where he helped form the ANC Youth League. His involvement in the protest at Sharpsville brought him to a mass treason trial with thousands detained, where he was acquitted. In June 1961, he was asked to lead the armed struggle and helped to establish Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation).
Under an alias, Mandela traveled to England on Jan. 11, 1962 seeking foreign support for his armed movement of protest. He then went on to Morocco and Ethiopia for military training. He returned in July of the same year and was arrested at a police roadblock soon thereafter, on Aug. 5. He was convicted of leaving the country illegally and inciting workers to strike, and was sentenced to 5 years of prison.
Mandela joined nine others in the now-famous Rivonia trial because of a police raid at a secret ANC hideout where several of his comrades were arrested. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island, where he began his term on June 11, 1964. Mandela’s mother passed in 1968 and his eldest son in 1969. He was unable to attend either of their funerals
Mandela was released on Feb. 11, 1990, though throughout his imprisonment, he was given at least three conditional offers of release. He was elected as the president of the ANC in 1991, and he won the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with President de Klerk. On April 27, 1994, he voted for the first time in his life. Mandela was elected president of South Africa on May 10, 1994 and stepped down in 1999 after one term as president.
In 2001, Mandela made his prostate cancer diagnosis public. He passed away on Dec. 5, 2013 at the age of 95.