Nelson Mandela: Facts And Stories You Didn't Know About The Beloved Revolutionary

By | July 16, 2020

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Nelson Mandela waves to the crowd after speaking at the Colonial Stadium for the World Reconciliation Day Concert, September 8, 2000 in Melbourne, Australia. (Hamish Blair/Liaison)

Happy birthday, Nelson Mandela! The anti-apartheid activist, Nobel Peace Prize–winner, and first black president of South Africa would have turned 102 years old today had he not passed away in 2013. A beloved figure in his native South Africa and around the world, Mandela spent 27 years as a political prisoner but never wavered from his conviction that racial segregation and discrimination was wrong. His politics were simply one facet, however, of one of the most interesting and complex figures of the twentieth century.

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Mandela fought against apartheid. (Biography)

Rolihlahla Mandela

When Nelson Mandela was born in the South African village of Mvezo on July 18, 1918, his parents named him Rolihlahla Mandela. In the native language of the region, Xhosa, Rolihlahla translates loosely to "troublemaker," perhaps a prophecy of the political agitation he'd become famous for. It was a teacher at the village's small elementary school who named him Nelson. At that time, it was customary for young African schoolchildren to be given British-sounding nicknames thanks to the pro-colonialism, anti-nationalism sentiment of the time.