Was born in a small village of 300 inhabitants called Qunu in Xhosa in the Transkei, which means "beyond the river" on June 18, 1918. Spent 27 years imprisoned by the racist regime that instituted apartheid in South Africa. But they never broke his spirit even though they offered freedom more than once in exchange for agreeing to withdraw into a Bantustan, a segregated area for blacks to live away from inhabited by whites.
He said that only come out of prison as a free man. In fact, in 1990 he came out after an agreement with then-President Frederick De Clerk to dismantle the racist regime. In 1994 he was the first president of the Republic of South Africa without apartheid.
Mandela graduated as lawyer in 1942. Two years later began his activism in the African National Congress, a peace movement that fought against the oppression of blacks. He was 24 years old. He quickly became one of the leaders of the youth league of the ANC. In 1952 he was the leader of youth when civil disobedience campaigns began. That same year he became the president of the ANC branch in the Transvaal at the very moment that deepened the repression against the black movement, with the arrest of 8,000 people, including Nelson Mandela. He was sentenced to remain confined for three years in Johannesburg banned to mobilize from anywhere in the country. In Johannesburg, Mandela opened the first black law firm in South Africa.
In 1955 he served his sentence and immediately starts a new campaign: The Freedom Charter. It was a document that promoted racial desegregation and freedom for blacks, as well as land reform and a fair distribution of wealth.
In 1960, the Sharpeville massacre happened. Police fired on a peaceful demonstration protesting against apartheid. They killed 69, including men, women and children. Mandela was imprisoned without trial and accused of treason, but was released in 1961. This killing marks a historical variant. From this slaughter fraction Mandela heads the ANC which is decided by the armed struggle they convinced that peaceful dialogue was useless for the racist regime. They organized "the spear of the nation," the armed wing of the "National Action Congress of All Africa" which he was the honorary secretary. In those days did not allow blacks people to the vote, it was prohibited interracial marriage, interracial parties were prohibited and the residence of blacks in white areas, among many other absurd measures.
In 1962 Mandela leaves the country for military training in other African countries where there were armed movements. Upon his return he was arrested and sentenced first to five years in prison and then to life imprisonment. In prison, he becomes the symbol of the struggle for freedom of the broad majority of South Africans men and women.
He was imprisoned until 1990 when he agrees with President Frederick De Clerk for the democratization process after the departure of Pieter Willem Botha, who suffered a stroke while enjoying the mandate.
With De Clerk he established the timetable for democratization. In 1994 Mandela was the first president of democratic South Africa and De Clerk his vice president. They then shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Despite the insistence to be reelected from many politicians who considered him the guarantor of stability, he refused to re-election in 1999 when his term ended.
Nelson Mandela has been married three times and had three daughters and three sons. In 1944 he married Evelyn Ntoko at the age of 26 years. With her he had a daughter who died at the age of infancy and three sons, Madibi who died in a car accident in 1969 and Makgatho who died of AIDS in 2005. At thirteen years of his first marriage he divorce from Evelyn. Then he married Winnie Madikizela in 1957 and they had two daughters Zenani and Zindziswa in 1958 and 1960 respectively while incarcerated. Winnie is undoubtedly the best known because she was high leader of the ANC. From Winnie Mandela he divorced in 1996, two years after being separated after a scandal involving Winnie and his bodyguard in the death of young blacks.
Finally he married Graca Machel in 1998. He was 80 years. Graca is the daughter of Samora Moises Machel, the historic leader of the Front for Liberation of Mozambique, FRELIMO, who won his country's decolonization and was its first president, and who was killed as is believed by an operation jointly developed by Pier Botha then president of South Africa and the Soviet ambassador in Mozambique, when the Soviet Union considered that Machel, who established a pro-Russian regime, was getting out of hand.