Today in people’s history: Nelson Mandela released from prison

Today marks exactly 25 years since the day in 1990 when anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela was released from prison to become a free man in South Africa. There followed a difficult four years of negotiation with the white-rule government to allow one-person one-vote, which led in 1994 to the overwhelming election of Mandela as president. He served until 1999, handing over the reins of government to a younger generation and entering an extended, graceful retirement. He died at the age of 95, a revered elder world statesman and a Nobel Peace Prize winner (with F.W. de Klerk), on December 5, 2013.

Mandela’s 27-year-long imprisonment, the first 18 of them at the heinous Robben Island Prison off the coast of Cape Town, inspired worldwide calls for his release. Over time, from the 1960s through the 1980s, Mandela became the most visible symbol of resistance against apartheid. The socialist countries actively supported the African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black political organization in South Africa and the leading force in the freedom struggle, which Mandela served in a number of capacities. In the Western countries, South Africa gradually became subject to boycotts, sanctions and divestment campaigns, making prospects for the future of white rule virtually untenable.

Mandela wrote an autobiography, Long Road to Freedom, which was made into a film in 2014. People’s World reviewed it here.

See video here of Mandela’s release.

Photo by Claw Murray (Photobucket)


Eric A. Gordon
Eric A. Gordon

Eric A. Gordon, People’s World Cultural Editor, wrote a biography of radical American composer Marc Blitzstein and co-authored composer Earl Robinson’s autobiography. He has received numerous awards for his People's World writing from the International Labor Communications Association. He has translated all nine books of fiction by Manuel Tiago (pseudonym for Álvaro Cunhal) from Portuguese, available from International Publishers NY.