• 0
  • 0
  • 0
  • 0
  • Embed Code

Previous Article
Next Article

Nelson Mandela Biography

Biography | 6-12 yrs | Interactive

Early Life

Nelson Mandela was a civil rights leader, who fought against apartheid, or racial discrimination against blacks, in South Africa.
Mandela was born on July 18 in South Africa in 1918. His name was Rolihlahla which meant trouble maker. When Mandela was nine years old, he was adopted by his father’s friend. A teacher gave him the name Nelson when he was a child. Mandela studied law and opened South Africa’s first black law firm.

Political Career

Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) to fight against apartheid. At first, he wanted the ANC to follow Mohandas Gandhi’s non violent protest methods.
After the ANC was banned in 1960, he led a secret army called ‘Spear of the Nation.’ He traveled to other countries to ask for help. Later, he began to doubt the effectiveness of Gandhi’s methods. He wanted to bomb some buildings, but not hurt anyone. The government called him a terrorist and jailed him, in 1962. He spent 27 years in prison. There was an international campaign for his release. Other countries stopped trading and playing sports with South Africa.
Finally, Mandela was released from prison in 1990. His work paid off when all races were allowed to vote in the 1994 election for the first time. He won the election and became the first black President of South Africa. He retired in 1999. He died on 5 December 2013, after a lung illness.


He received the Peace Prize in 1993.
Mandela has received over 695 awards. This is the maximum number of awards anyone has ever got.
On his birthday, Nelson Mandela Day, people are asked to spend 67 minutes helping others. Why 67? He spent 67 years serving South Africa.

Nelson Mandela Quotes

  • Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.
  • Lead from the back- and let others believe they are in front.
  • It always seems impossible until it’s done.
  • There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.
  • I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.

To read more interesting biographies of famous people, browse though our huge collection of short biographies for kids.