"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for. But, my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." (Nelson Mandela, 1964)
In the case of some historical figures, a single event or small span of years is sufficient for understanding the timeliness and extent of their impact upon the world. But others have taken lengthier, more convoluted journeys with broadly-evolved circumstances, intentions and roles to be played, reinventing themselves and playing different roles as times change. Such is the case with Nelson Mandela, whose conflict with the apartheid government of South Africa was marked by an irrational and contrary stream of corrupt legislation intended to reverse the gains made in the cause of equality through the 19th and 20th centuries.
The most basic descriptions of Nelson Mandela's life and career would include terms such as anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, activist, and philanthropist, but all of these monikers require extensive shading. He has, at one time or another, been called every complimentary and critical term available to a politician, and from specific times and perspectives, they all contain some hint of truth. Mandela was a child without citizenship from his own country without any notion of its history, but in the end, he became the first of his race to lead it and to reestablish a franchise for those of his heritage.
©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors