Nelson Mandela began his career as a lawyer before becoming an anti-apartheid revolutionary and serving as president of South Africa. For his social justice, human rights and anti-apartheid work, Mandela was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in the small village of Mvezo in South Africa. After attending school in his native country, he spent time at the University of London before returning to South Africa and starting a law firm. Around this time, Mandela joined the African National Congress and became a founding member of the organization’s Youth League.
Mandela was arrested several times during his adult life, often for his political ties with the African National Congress and his work as a lawyer. In 1961, Mandela led a campaign to sabotage South Africa’s ruling apartheid government. He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment; however, he was released in 1990 after serving 27 years in prison.
After his release, Mandela resumed his anti-apartheid activism and entered into negotiations with then-President F.W. de Klerk to end apartheid and establish multiracial elections in South Africa. Mandela was successful, and the African National Congress rose to power, with Mandela serving as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.
Nelson Mandela died on Dec. 5, 2013, after a prolonged illness. He was 95.