35 Pictures of Nelson Mandela’s Struggle to End Apartheid in South Africa


Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary politician, who served as the President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. Mandela was the country’s first black head of state and the first black president to be elected in a democratic election with universal suffrage. Mandela’s government focused on dismantling the remnants of the apartheid system and fostering positive race relations. Mandela, as an African nationalist and socialist, served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) party from 1991-1997.

Mandela was born to the royal Xhosa Thembu family. He studied law at the Universty of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand before practicing law in Johannesburg. While in Johannesburg, he became involved in anti-colonial and African Nationalist parties. Mandela was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the 1956 Treason Trial in which 156 people, including Mandela, were arrested in a raid and accused of treason. Mandela eventually joined the banned South African Communist Party and co-founded the militant Umkhoto we Sizwe in 1961, leading a sabotage campaign against the government. In 1961, Mandela was arrested for conspiring to overthrow the state and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mandela served 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Vester Prison. Out of fears of a racial civil war, President F.W. de Klerk released Mandela in 1990.

Mandela and de Klerk negotiated the end of apartheid and organized the 1994 multiracial general election, in which Mandela won. As President, Mandela led the coalition to form a new constitution and formed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses. Despite Mandela’s socialist beliefs, his administration maintained his predecessor’s liberal framework, while encouraging land reform, the expansion of healthcare services, and increased welfare services.

Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5, 2013. Critics on the right have denounced Mandela as a communist terrorist and those on the left have considered him too eager to negotiate and reconcile with apartheid supporters. Mandela has received more than 250 honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize, and is described as the “Father of the Nation.”

Portrait of South African political leader Nelson Mandela between 1945 and 1960. He was wearing the traditional outfit of the Thembu tribe which he came from. Photo by API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Black demonstrators cower from a police dog at Gugulethu township, near Cape Town, on August 12, 1976. Photograph- AP.
A banner is held aloft above black students in Johannesburg, South Africa, in the township of Soweto where they rallied after the funeral of a 16-year-old black student who died in jail, Oct. 18, 1976. The student, Dumisani Mbatha, who was arrested following a protest march last month by young blacks in Johannesburg, died two days after his arrest Sept. 23. AP Photo
PONDOLAND, SOUTH AFRICA – JUNE: Mandela marries Winnie Madikizela on June 1958 in Ponderland, South Africa. A social worker from Bizana in Pondoland. Winnie takes on a more politically active role while Mandela is tied down by his trials. Over the next few years, two daughters are born, Zenani and Zindzi. Photo by API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
SOUTH AFRICA. Johannesburg. Nelson Mandela, then acting as a defense lawyer, outside the Drill Hall, during the Treason Trial, the first major trial for treason in South Africa. 1961. Magnum Photos
African women demonstrate in front of the Law Courts in Pretoria, 16 June 1964, after the verdict of the Rivonia trial, in which eight men, among them anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment. The eight men were accused of conspiracy, sabotage, and treason. Photograph: Getty Images
Mandela, with some other political prisoners, raise their hands in the popular fist salute – a symbol of resistance to apartheid, on their way to Robben Island Prison Yard rule. zikoko
Mandela, second from right, a leader of the African National Congress, and other activists who were charged with treason by the South African government walk to their trial, in 1956. Photograph- Keystone-France: Gamma-Keystone: Getty
Nelson Mandela’s former prison cell (cell 5 in B-section in the political prisoners’ area) on Robben Island off Cape Town. Matt Schoenfeld
Nelson Mandela spent much of his sentence in solitary confinement. He was allowed one letter and one visitor every six months. zikoko
Walter Sisulu was a fellow inmate in Robben Island Prison Yard. He later became an important politician and served as the ruling party’s (ANC) Deputy President. zikoko
Amongst these prisoners was Mandela. He spent most of his time on Robben Island working in a quarry, crushing limestone. zikoko
A rare glimpse of Nelson Mandela (left) with hat, spade and dark glasses doing prison work in the garden of Robben Island jail where he spent 18 of his 27 years as a political prisoner. Working alongside him in the picture, taken surreptitiously sometime in the 1970s, are Andimba Toivo ja Toivo (center), who later became Namibian Minister of Mines and Minerals, and Brigadier Justice Mpanza (right), a former commander of the African National Congress’ armed wing. Photographs of Mandela as a prisoner were banned by the apartheid government, fearing his status as an African icon. Irish Times
While in prison, Nelson Mandela earned a law degree. He also learned to speak the local Afrikaans language in order to better communicate with the local inmates. zikoko
Nelson Mandela and his wife as they left Victor Verster prison, 2:11:90 Even though he’d been pushing for it, Mandela was still very surprised at the sudden announcement of his release. He went on to become the country’s first black president in 1994. zikoko
Nelson and Winnie Mandela at the Johannesburg airport. May 1990. Photograph by Lily Franey: Gamma-Rapho: Getty.