On the anniversary of his birth, a celebration of the South African giant's life — in his own words.
Jurgen Schadeberg/Getty Images
Published July 18, 2018
Published a month ago
Nelson Mandela belongs to South Africa, but as a symbol of courage and fortitude, faith and forgiveness, he also belongs to the world. So, on July 18, people everywhere will celebrate the centenary of his birth. Mandela, who died in 2013 at age 95, was many things in his life: anti-apartheid icon, revolutionary, political prisoner, philanthropist, and the first democratically elected president of South Africa. After Mandela's death in 2013 at age 95, then-U.S. president Barack Obama spoke about Mandela's mission to bring the whole of South Africa out of its apartheid past. “It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth," Obama said. Here, a look back at some indelible photos of Mandela, along with some words from the inspiring leader himself.
Susan Winters Cook/Getty Images"I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." (Above: Campaigning in Cape Town in 1994.)
Apic/RETIRED/Getty Images"There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death." (Above: In traditional dress in 1961.)
Keystone/Getty Images"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." (Above: In boxing gear, circa 1950.)Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images"I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb." (Above: Mandela and other African National Congress leaders on trial for treason in 1956.)
Jurgen Schadeberg/Getty Images"Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated." (Above: As a young lawyer and activist in Johannesburg in 1952.)Gallo Images"It seems the destiny of freedom fighters to have unstable personal lives... to be the father of a nation is a great honor, but to be the father of a family is a greater joy. But it was a job I had far too little of." (Above: A 1958 photo from Mandela's wedding to Winnie Madikizela. They officially divorced in 1996.)Allan Tannenbaum/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images"The cameras started clicking like a great herd of metallic beasts. I raised my right fist and there was a roar. I had not been able to do that for 27 years and it gave me a surge of strength and joy." (Above: With wife Winnie after his release from prison in 1990.)
Louise Gubb/Corbis via Getty Images"There are times when my heart almost stops beating, slowed down by heavy loads of longing." (Above:With his family visiting his ancestral village for the first time after his release from prison.)Brooks Kraft/Sygma via Getty Images"Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another... The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement. Let freedom reign." (Above: At a campaign stop in 1994, the year he was elected South Africa's president — he served from '94 to '99.)JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP/Getty Images"We enter into a covenant that we shall build a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall without any fear in their hearts, assured of the inalienable right to human dignity, a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world." (Above: Wearing the Springbok jersey of the South African national team during the rugby World Cup final in 1995. The event was dramatized in the 2009 movie "Invictus.")
TSJ MERLYN LICENSING BV/Gallo Images/Gallo Images/Getty Images"One issue that deeply worried me in prison was the false image I unwittingly projected to the outside world; of being regarded as a saint." (Above: Meeting with Princess Diana in March 1997.)Gallo Images"Perhaps I was blinded to certain things because of the pain I felt for not being able to fulfill my role as husband to my wife and father to my children." (Above: With daughter Zindzi Mandela Hlongwane at his birthday party in 1995.)Tom Stoddart Archive/Getty Images"Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people." (Above: With Queen Elizabeth II on a state visit to Great Britain in 1996.)
Dave Benett/Getty Images"In the face of the grave threat posed by HIV/AIDS, we have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people. History will judge us harshly if we fail to do so now, and right now." (Above: At an AIDS charity concert in Cape Town in 2003.)Thomas Imo/Photothek via Getty Images"When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace." (Above: Mandela in 1996.)