From prison to president: Mandela, 95, dies



The world suffered a tragic loss on Dec. 5 when Nelson Mandela, arguably the most well-known rights activist, died after being in failing health for several months.

He was most famous for being the first Black president of South Africa following a 27-year incarceration until he became a free man in February 1990. 

Mandela was a positive influence on blacks and he is known for his sacrifice in standing up for what he believed in by spending a great amount of time in prison. 

Not only did his death touch the world, it touched people in Grambling as well.

“I feel this was a great tragedy and we lost such an amazing figure in history,” said Burgundy Hammond, a junior criminal justice major. 

She said she hopes that his contributions will not be forgotten, particularly by students at HBCUs around the country.

Mandela was heavily involved with civil rights in South Africa as he fought against his country’s racially divisive apartheid policy. He went to school to study about political law and human rights. 

He received a two-year diploma in 1952 and started South Africa’s first black law firm. 

His 27-year prison stay came about when treason charges were brought against him in 1955, following a countrywide search where police attacked or arrested hundreds of blacks. This led to his treason trial in 1956. 

March of 1960 was a very down year for Mandela and South Africa. Roughly 69 people were killed and 181 were wounded, according to The New York Times. After the tragic shootings, the South African government put a ban on black political groups and made arrests of random black South African citizens.  

Mandela started a revolution to have black political groups to go underground to campaign and to attack the South African government to fight against the apartheid that was taking place. 

Police seemed to follow Mandela everywhere he went and once again Mandela was arrested. After a long trip outside the country he was arrested for leaving the country illegally and then sentenced to five years in prison. Mandela was living underground for about 17 months.

Some of the people who were responsible for his imprisonment, and even his prison guards, became Mandela’s confidants and political allies following his release.

His policy of forgiveness and working together was exemplified by his life and political career.

“I hope it teaches that Mandela’s work and teachings do not become depleted but instead serve as motivation to become the change that we wish to see in the world, Hammond said.