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Following WWII, the National Party of South Africa enacted apartheid, a system of legislative segregation that created white minority supremacy over the diverse racial inhabitants of the region; intense racial classification, residential, municipal and educational segregation and even separate government entities characterized the National Party’s reign.

Nelson Mandela lived his life in protest of apartheid and the hardships it put his people through. For many years, Mandela followed the teachings of Gandhi and battled the government supremacists through legislation, nonviolent protest and human reason. The ever increasing power of the National Party, as well as his arrest and eventual acquittal for treason changed Mandela’s tactics, though.


The political activist became the leader of the African National Congress armed wing in 1961, and conducted sabotage missions against apartheid institutions, government offices and military sites. The operations were successful in frustrating the National Party, but proved futile to bring down the institutional and societal rifts already in place in South Africa. Because of these actions along with other minor charges, Mandela was caught and arrested on August 5th, 1962; almost 28 years later, on February 2, 1990, Mandela was released and finally felt his freedom.

Within four years of his release, Mandela participated in and won the first multi-racial South African presidential election. As President, Mandela’s primary goal was to reconcile the deep wounds inflicted during apartheid; a variety of social reforms, universal healthcare, infrastructure improvement, and an expansion of the education system to all races transformed the once divided, torn nation into one with the potential to be unified, healthy and thriving.

Although the hero’s health keeps him out of the spotlight of the political arena, the life-long battle he waged for human rights and equality are unmeasurable. His birthday is a celebration of all that was gained when Mandela began his journey as the liberator and ended it as President of South Africa. He gave everything he could for the people he loved and the country he called home, and upheld the highest personal ideals and aspirations in order to free them. On the day of his birth, let us remember his actions and strive to better ourselves.

Below is a song by Stetsasonic that acts as both a prayer to free South Africa as well as a tribute to the feats of Nelson Mandela himself. Enjoy the tunes, and honor the South African hero on his birthday.

-Kevin Shea (@kevinnshea)

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