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Nelson Mandela, a man who survived the most pressing trials of South Africa’s apartheid history, has passed away at age 95. Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in 1994. In a special speech, President Barack Obama said that his very first political action was in protest to apartheid in South Africa, an effort inspired by Nelson Mandela.

Born in 1918, in the village of Mvezo, located in the hills of South Africa, he was born Rolihlahla Mandela. Mandela’s father passed away when he was 9 years old so he was raised by an African Trial Chief. Educated in the town of Quru, he was named “Nelson” by a former schoolteacher. As early as college, Mandela was punished for his activism. He was expelled from the University of College of Fort Hare for his participation in protest. He did manage to make a historical stride, however, opening South Africa’s first black-owned law firm with his colleague, Oliver Tambo.

An outspoken radical against apartheid, Mandela’s name was on America’s terror list until 2008 for his work with the African National Congress.

“Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela’s first bout of court accusations came in 1956 when he was cited for treason. The trial, which lasted half a decade, led to his acquittal. Shortly thereafter, Mandela turned to underground militancy and military training in response to the dissolution of the African National Congress. The South African government would catch up with the leader once again in 1964 in the Rivonia trial in which he defended himself in a 4-hour speech.

Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. He would serve 18 of those years at Robben Island prison, where he fought for the rights of his fellow prisoners. After serving 27 years, Mandela was released in 1990 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize three years later alongside Former South African President F.W. de Klerk.

Then, in South Africa’s first open election, Mandela was elected the first black president of South Africa in 1994. He served one term, retiring in 1999. He dedicated the remainder of his life to charitable work throughout the world.

Nelson Mandela has lived a life of struggle, exile, underground rebellion, and living under an alias to avoid location by the government. He has seen hundreds, even thousands, killed under the apartheid regime that plagued the blacks of his country for decades.

With his passing, he is survived by his third wife, Graca Machel, three children,17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

His legacy lives among the people of South Africa, in the words of America’s first black president, Barack Obama, in the 2009 film “Invictus” and the upcoming motion picture “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” starring actor Idris Elba, currently in theaters.

In the photo below, Tom Joyner reflects as he visits Robben Island prison, which held former South African President Nelson Mandela as an inmate for 18 years.

Little Known Black History Fact: Nelson Mandela  was originally published on