Born as Rolihlahla Mandela, Nelson Mandela was given his English first name by a schoolteacher. He was the first president of South Africa to be elected in fully democratic elections and held office from 1994 to 1999.
Mandela was born in 1918 in the South African district of Umtata. After studying law, he became politically active in the African National Congress (ANC) and worked to end apartheid. Although he initially advocated nonviolent protest, he became disillusioned with the effectiveness of nonviolent tactics and in 1961 he led a bombing campaign against government buildings. In 1964, he was arrested along with other prominent ANC leaders and convicted of sabotage and armed action against the South African government.
He was imprisoned at Robben Island, just off the coast near Cape Town, for the next eighteen years. In 1982 he was moved to another prison; finally in 1990 he was released by South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk. That same year, the ANC's existence was legalized and Mandela was elected as the organization's official president.
Mandela and de Klerk participated in a series of negotiations and peace talks, and they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. On 27 April 1994, South Africa's first fully democratic elections were held and the ANC won 62% of the votes. As the elected leader of the ANC, Nelson Mandela became the first president of non-apartheid South Africa and led his nation into a new age of equality.
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