On Thursday, South African President Jacob Zuma announced the death of Nelson Mandela at age 95. One of the most significant and vital figures of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela became known not only as the father of his nation, but as the father of an entire people.
All this goes back to 1918 when Mandela, then known by the name Rolihlaha, was born into the royal line of the Xhosa tribe in South Africa. Later, his name was changed to Nelson when he was baptized by Methodists. When he died he was known by Africans merely as Madiba, representing his traditional clan. By then, he had become one of the most respected figures on the world stage.
Nelson Mandela came to adulthood as the minority white government of South Africa was instituting apartheid, the radical system of total racial segregation and discrimination that forced the native African majority in the nation into a state of humiliating oppression. Apartheid required the social, economic, and political separation of whites and blacks in South Africa, and it was enforced with brutality and murderous force.
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