Nelson Mandela: A revolutionary’s life

View images of civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, who went from anti-apartheid activist to prisoner to South Africa's first black president.

Nelson Mandela was born in a small village in South Africa's eastern Cape in 1918, the youngest son of a counselor to the chief of the Thembu clan. He is pictured in about 1950, six years after he founded the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League with Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu.

Mandela died on Dec. 5, 2013, at the age of 95.


Mandela, center, meets with fellow ANC Youth League leaders Walter Sisulu, left, and Harrison Motlana during the "Defiance Campaign" trial at the Supreme Court in Johannesburg in 1952. The campaign encouraged people to defy the apartheid laws, a system of strict racial segregation meant to ensure the continued economic and political dominance of white South Africans. Mandela was given a suspended prison sentence.

Jurgen Schadeberg / AP

Mandela (2nd from right) returns to court in 1956. Alongside 155 other activists Mandela was charged with high treason, but the charges against him were dropped after a four-year trial.

Keystone-france / KEYSTONE France

Mandela married his second wife Winnie Madikizela in 1958, and they went on to have two daughters. The marriage ended in divorce in 1996.

Off / AFP

Mandela gives a speech to the African Congress in 1961. The ANC had been outlawed the previous year and Mandela went underground, leaving South Africa in 1962 to undergo military training and gather support abroad.

Keystone-france / KEYSTONE France

Returning to South Africa, Mandela was captured and sentenced to five years for incitement and illegally leaving the country. In 1964 he was among eight men sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia trial after being convicted of conspiracy and sabotage. In this picture taken in June 1964, the eight men leave the Palace of Justice in Pretoria, their fists raised in defiance through the barred windows of the prison van.

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Mandela's daughter Zinzi, center, and other Cape Town University students stage a demonstration on August 29, 1985 demandting the release of jailed ANC activists.

Gideon Mendel / AFP

Winnie Mandela raises her fist in a black power salute on July 17, 1988, as she announces that a massive pop concert will be held to mark the 70th birthday of her jailed husband. As Mandela languished in prison, the international community tightened the sanctions first imposed on South Africa's apartheid regime in 1967. In 1990, President FW de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC.

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A jubilant Sowetan holds up a newspaper announcing Mandela's release from prison at a mass rally in Soweto on Feb. 11, 1990.

Trevor Samson / AFP

After more than 27 years in detention, Mandela walks out of the Victor-Verster Prison in Paarl on Feb. 11, 1990, accompanied by his wife Winnie.

Greg English / AP

Two days after his release, Mandela addresses a rally attended by over 100 000 people at Soccer City Stadium in Soweto on Feb. 13, 1990. "The march towards freedom and justice is irreversible," he told the crowd.

Walter Dhladhla / AFP

Mandela and FW de Klerk, right, address the media following breakthrough talks between the ANC and the government at the Groote Schuur Estate in Cape Town on May 5, 1990.

Oryx Media Archive/benny Gool

Mandela acknowledges the applause during a speech to the United Nations in New York on June 22, 1990. Mandela urged the U.N. to maintain sanctions against South Africa until apartheid was abolished.

Don Emmert / AFP

Mandela greets supporters on July 22, 1990 as he holds up high the keys of a Mercedes-Benz car that was especially built and gifted to him by workers at a plant in Mdantsana, a black township near East London. The vehicle became known as the Madiba Merc, after Mandela's clan name.

Walter Dhladhla / AFP

Nelson and Winnie Mandela join a group of clergymen and embassy officials on a visit to the Tokoza township on Dec. 12, 1990, in an effort to bring peace to the area where 83 people had lost their lives in clashes between Zulu and Xhosa factions in the previous five days.

Walter Dhladhla / AFP

Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway on Dec. 10, 1993. De Klerk would go on to serve as one of Mandela's deputy presidents.

Gerard Julien / AFP

Mandela campaigning in Mmabatho on March, 15, 1994 in the lead-up to South Africa's first democratic and multiracial general election.

Walter Dhladhla / AFP

Mandela smiles broadly as he casts his vote in Oshlange, a black township near Durban, in the historic election on April 27, 1994.

Walter Dhladhla / AFP

Mandela takes the oath on May 10, 1994, during his inauguration in Pretoria as the country's first black president. "The time for the healing of the wounds has come," Mandela said. "The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us."

Walter Dhladhla / AFP

Mandela congratulates South Africa's rugby captain François Pienaar before handing him the William Webb trophy after his team's victory over New Zealand in the final of the Rugby World Cup at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on June 24, 1995. "It was on that day that he captured the hearts of white South Africa," said the author John Carlin, who wrote a book, later turned into an Oscar-nominated movie, about the significance of Mandela's embrace of the largely-white rugby team.

Jean-pierre Muller / AFP

Mandela and Pope John Paul II listen to national anthems after meeting at Johannesburg International Airport on Sept. 16, 1995, at the start of the pope's first official visit to South Africa.

Luciano Mellace / © Luciano Mellace / Reuters

Mandela lays a brick at the Rolihlahla primary school in Ikhutseng, Warrenton, in the Northern Cape Province, on Aug. 31, 1996. Mandela's government launched a major reconstruction and development programme in an attempt to address South Africa's socioeconomic problems, but poor housing, crime and unemployment continued to blight the country.

Anna Zieminski / AFP

Mandela shows U.S. President Bill Clinton Cell No. 5 at Robben Island, where Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years, on March 27, 1998. Clinton lauded Mandela for surviving the experience without "having his heart turned into stone."

Pool Old / © Reuters Photographer / Reuters

On his 80th birthday, July 18, 1998, Mandela married Graca Machel, the widow of former Mozambican President Samora Machel.

© Str Old / Reuters / X00700

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, right, hands Mandela the five-volume report produced by his Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on Oct. 29, 1998. The report revealed human rights abuse by various political parties during apartheid. Accepting the report, Mandela acknowledged that the wounds of the period of repression and resistance were too deep to have been healed by the TRC alone.

Walter Dhladhla / AFP

Mandela retired from public office after serving five years as president. On June 16, 1999 he attended the inauguration of his successor Thabo Mbeki, left, at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Odd Andersen / AFP

Mandela hugs Babalwa Tembani, 20, who was infected with the HIV virus after being raped by her uncle at the age of 14, on a visit to the Nolungile Clinic in Khayelitsha, Cape Town on Dec. 12, 2002. In 2005 Mandela's eldest son Makgatho died of an AIDS-related illness. Announcing Makgatho's death, Mandela said "Let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because [that is] the only way to make it appear like a normal illness."

Anna Zieminski / AFP

Mandela holds the World Cup trophy alongside Desmond Tutu on May 15, 2004 in Zurich, Switzerland, after South Africa won the right to host the soccer tournament in 2010. Mandela played a key role in South Africa's bid for the event, and appeared at the closing ceremony.

Franck Fife / AFP

Mandela celebrates his 86th birthday flanked by his wife Graca Machel, left, and ex-wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela, right, in his home town of Qunu in the Eastern Cape on July 18, 2004.

Afp / AFP

Mandela celebrates his 89th birthday with a group of young people at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in Johannesburg on July 24, 2007. After his retirement from politics Mandela remained involved in social issues through the Children's Fund and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, a charity set up in 1999.

Alexander Joe / FILES

Brian May performs at the 46664 concert in celebration of Nelson Mandela's life, held at Hyde Park in London on June 27, 2008. The event was organized to raise funds for Nelson Mandela's HIV/AIDS "46664" campaign, named after his prison number. Exactly 46,664 people were expected to attend the event, which also celebrated the former South African president's 90th birthday on July 18.

© Andrew Winning / Reuters / X00802

With his wife at his side, Mandela blows out the candles on his 91st birthday in Johannesburg on July 18, 2009.

Debbie Yazbek / AP

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama visits Mandela at his home in Johannesburg on June 21, 2011, accompanied by her mother and daughters.They are pictured reading his newest book, titled "Nelson Mandela by himself."

Debby Yazbek / Nelson Mandela Fo / NELSON MANDELA FOUNDATION

Mandela receives the African Nation Congress centenary torch from ANC chairwoman Baleka Mbete at his home in Qunu on May 30, 2012. The original torch was lit during the party's 100th birthday celebrations earlier in 2012, before a replica was presented to Mandela at his home.

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Schoolchildren read about Mandela's life at a school in his home village of Qunu ahead of the opening of a container library by the Bill Clinton foundation in celebration of Mandela day on July 17, 2012.

Siphiwe Sibeko / X90069

Nelson Mandela met with a group of American and South African students, aged from 11 to 19, at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 2, 2009.

Media24 / Gallo Images / Hulton Archive