Who: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
What: Revolutionary, first black President of South Africa
Where: Born Mvezo, Cape Province, died Johannesburg, South Africa.
Why: Breaking down racial barriers in South Africa.
When: Born July 18, 1918, died December 5, 2013.
“It always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela
Born into the Madiba clan in Mvezo, Cape Province, South Africa in 1918, Nelson Mandela fled his hometown for Johannesburg to avoid an arranged marriage in 1941. It was in Johannesburg where he met and started working for the liberal Jewish lawyer Lzar Sidelsky, who was sympathetic to the cause of the African National Congress, which Mandela originally avoided. He joined the ANC in 1944, shortly before the introduction of apartheid in 1948. Mandela set up South Africa’s first black law firm in 1953, Mandela and Tambo with Oliver Tambo. Mandela was arrested in 1956 and charged with treason, serving five years in prison. Before his release, the ANC was banned after a massacre at Sharpeville in 1960. He founded the ‘Spear of the Nation’, an armed wing of the ANC, abandoning all notions of nonviolent protest. Arrested again in 1962 on charges of illicitly leaving the country and inciting strikes, he was again charged in 1963 on charges of sabotage, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent eighteen years on Robben Island doing hard labour, and another six in Pollsmoor Prison, before being diagnosed with tuberculosis and moved to Victor Verster Prison, where he was finally released in February 1990. Spearheading negotiations to end apartheid with F.W. de Klerk, he was elected their first black Prime Minster in 1994, retiring in 1999. One of the most honoured men in history, he has received over 250 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. He died aged 94 in Johannesburg in December 2013.