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10 Interesting Facts You Did Not Know About Nelson Mandela’s Life

Nelson Mandela will remain forever in our memories as the main actor of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. While Mandela is a name known throughout the world, many aspects of this hero’s life remain unknown to many people.

A member of the party of the African National Congress in the 1940s, he was at the same time at the head of the peaceful demonstrations and the armed resistance against the oppressive regime of the white minority in South Africa. His actions took him to prison where he spent nearly three decades.

After his release in 1990, he participated in the elimination of apartheid and became the first black president of South Africa in 1994. In 1999, Nelson Mandela retired from politics but remained a fervent a supporter of peace and social justice in his country, and throughout the world until his death in 2013 at the age of 95 years.

Here are 10 interesting facts about the life of Nelson Mandela, a man who has become an international symbol of peace and tolerance:


1. Born on July 18, 1918, his birthname was Rolihlahla Mandela. According to, “Rolihlahla” is generally translated as “troublemaker” in the Xhosa language. It is in primary school that a teacher gives him the first name Nelson.

2. His father’s death from lung cancer marked a major turning point in his life. He was adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, of the Thembu people, at the age of 9 years. He had to leave the small village where he grew up, Qunu, to go to Thembuland Palace. The adoption allowed her to continue her studies in institutions such as Clarkebury Boarding Institute and Wesleyan College. Mandela was the first child in his family to study. His brilliant performance made him a distinction.

3. Mandela continued his studies at Fort Hare University College, but was expelled from the institution because of his role in student activism. This news thwarted Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, who ordered him to return to school and give up his actions. The leader also threatened to send her to marriage, forcing her to flee with her cousin to Johannesburg.


4. In prison, Mandela lost two very close people. His mother died in 1968 and his eldest son, Thembi, also the following year. Mandela was not allowed to go to their funeral.

5. Although many people associate Mandela with his ex-wife Winnie, Madiba has married three times. In 1994, he married his first wife, Evelyn Mase, with whom he had two boys and two girls. Mandela and Mase separated in 1955, and three years later, they divorced. Mandela then married Winnie Madikizela in 1958. She gave him two daughters. They divorced six years after he was released from prison. When he was 80 years old in 1998, Mandela married his last wife, Graça Machel.

10 interesting facts that you did not know about Nelson Mandela's life

6. In prison from 1962 to 1990, Mandela wrote a secret autobiography. The content was published in 1994 as a book entitled “Long Walk to Freedom”.

7. Mandela would have received at least three offers to be released from prison. However, he refused because his release was tied to a condition, that of giving up his activism.

10 interesting facts that you did not know about Nelson Mandela's life

8. Mandela voted for the first time in 1994. On May 10 of that year, Mandela became the first elected black president of South Africa. He was 77 years old.

9. In addition to his struggle against apartheid, Nelson Mandela led awareness campaigns on AIDS, a virus that killed dozens of Africans. Mandela’s own son, Makgatho, died of this disease in 2005.

10 interesting facts that you did not know about Nelson Mandela's life

10. Four years before Mandela’s death, South Africans were taking holidays in honor of the activist. Mandela Day, celebrated on its birthday, July 18, is a day when people around the world spend time for charity groups and work for peacekeeping.


Written by How Africa

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