By Michelle Bulterys
In a nation plagued by apartheid, Nelson Mandela stood for peace and developed a mindset of putting love over hate against all odds. Despite expulsion from school, gaining a controversial reputation internationally and enduring a 27-year-long prison sentence, Mandela retained a positive state of mind that encouraged education, peace and freedom among all. To this day, Mandela is considered to be one of the most influential peace activists and political leaders. Here are eight facts about his life that many do not know:
1. Nelson was not his original name.
His birth name, Rolihlahla, is a Xhosa name meaning “to pull the branch of a tree” or “troublemaker,” which was given to him by his father. His teacher, a missionary, gave him the name Nelson on the first day of school. Nelson Mandela was often called by other names in South Africa, such as Madiba (the name of his ancestral clan), Tata (Xhosa term for “father”) and Dalibhunga (the name he was given after his Xhosa rite of passage at age 16).
2. He was on the U.S. Terrorism Watch List until 2008.
Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his administration placed Nelson Mandela and the entire African National Congress (ANC) on the U.S. Terrorism Watch List because of perceived communist ties to the Soviet Union.
3. He was expelled from Fort Hare Missionary College for organizing an anti-apartheid strike on campus.
At a young age, Mandela fought publically for freedom and democracy against the apartheid regime. His expulsion forced Mandela to postpone his law studies.
4. He left the Eastern Cape because his village leader arranged a marriage for him.
Mandela ran away with his cousin to Johannesburg, where he furthered his law studies and eventually joined the ANC.
5. He used a fake ID in the name of David Motsamayi to hide from the police.
Because of the ANC, Mandela was forced to disguise himself to evade the police. He worked low-paying jobs to move around the country under the radar before ultimately being captured and sentenced to prison.
6. He wrote a memoir called “A Prisoner in the Garden” and buried the papers in the prison’s vegetable patches.
Mandela’s memoir extracts were found in plastic bags in the soil when gardeners of the prison were remodeling the landscape. As punishment, his studying privileges were revoked and he was only allowed one letter every six months.
7. He forgot his glasses when released from prison.
On the day Mandela was released from prison, he began his press conference speech and realized he had left his glasses in his cell. He borrowed his wife’s glasses in order to read the remainder of his speech.
8. In his free time he studied law, and earned his law degree 50 years later
According to Mandela, “education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” Throughout his life, Mandela studied law on and off, admittedly failing almost half of his school courses. Mandela received his law degree in 1989 while in prison, illustrating his dedication to continuing his education despite thresholds.
Photo by PresidenciaRD