Nelson Mandela Fact Sheet: Who was Nelson Mandela? The following short biography and fact sheet provides interesting facts about the life, times and history of Nelson Mandela, the political activist who became the first black president of South Africa.
Nelson Mandela Fact 1: He was a Xhosa born on July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, Cape Province, South Africa to the Thembu royal family. Xhosa people can be described as a Bantu ethnic group of Southern African people who live in the south-east of South Africa.
Nelson Mandela Fact 2: He spent much of his childhood outside tending to herds of cattle. He later said that his life was centred around custom, ritual and taboo.
Nelson Mandela Fact 3: His birth name was Rolihlahla which is a Xhosa term meaning troublemaker. He received the forename 'Nelson' by a teacher when he began attending a Methodist school at the age of seven.
Nelson Mandela Fact 4: His father died when he was approximately nine years old. He later said that his own stubborn sense of fairness and proud rebelliousness came from his father.
Nelson Mandela Fact 5: Following the death of his father, he was taken to the 'Great Place' palace at Mqhekezweni by his mother who entrusted him to the guardian care of Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, a Thembu regent. He was raised by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo and his wife Noengland. The couple had children called Justice and Nomafu, and they treated Nelson Mandela like a son also. It was a long time before he met with his mother again.
Nelson Mandela Fact 6: As a child, he loved listening to stories about African history. He was raised a Methodist and he attended church regularly. He studied English, Xhosa, geography and history at a Methodist school located close to the palace.
Nelson Mandela Fact 7: At the age of 16, he was circumcised along with other boys. The ritual symbolized the boys transition into men. Afterwards, he received the name Dalibunga.
Nelson Mandela Fact 8: He attended the largest school for black Africans in Thembuland from 1936. The school helped to change his attitude, making him more sociable and as he later quoted, 'less stuck up'. He enjoyed playing sports, gardening and for the first time, he became friends with a girl.
Nelson Mandela Fact 9: He relocated to a Methodist college in Healdtown in 1937. This was a popular college for students from Thembu Royal Family. Nelson Mandela made friends with a non-Xhosa who was a Sotho language speaker (one of the official languages of South Africa). His favorite teacher was a Xhosa was married to a Sotho. During his time at the college, he continued playing sports, in particular he enjoyed running and boxing.
Nelson Mandela Fact 10: He continued his education at the University of Fort Hare. The university provided an important institution in higher education for black African students during these years. He began studying for a BA (Bachelor of Arts) degree, however, he was suspended for a while after he became involved in a boycott against the quality of food with other members of the Students' Representative Council. He left the university without earning a degree.
Nelson Mandela Fact 11: He met his close friends, K.D. Matanzima and Oliver Tambo, whilst he was staying in the Wesley House dormitory and studying at the University of Fort Hare.
Nelson Mandela Fact 12: Nelson Mandela and his guardian’s son, Justice, ran away in 1941 after they discovered that marriages had been arranged for them. Nelson found work at a law firm where he made his first white friend. He began attending communist talks where he learnt that Africans, Europeans, Indians and other nationalities were integrating as equals. He joined boycott marches and he returned to University to study for his bachelor's degree which he earned in 1943. He continued his studies at the University of Witwatersrand where he made many friends of various nationalities including Harry Schwarz, Ruth First, Joe Slovo and Anton Lembede.
Nelson Mandela Fact 13: He was influenced by an African nationalist called Anton Lembede. He was against colonialism and imperialism or to an alliance with the communists. Nelson Mandela shared similar views with Anton Lembede, he wanted black Africans to have complete independence in their battle for political self-determination.
Nelson Mandela Fact 14: He became a member of the African National Congress Youth League which was founded in 1944. His nationalist friend, Anton Lembede, was president of the youth league. Anton Lembede died in 1947.
Nelson Mandela Fact 15: He married an ANC activist called Evelyn Mase on October 5, 1944. They had their first child in February 1945 called Madiba Thembekile. Their second child died at the age of 9 months from meningitis. The relationship between Nelson Mandela and his wife became strained years later after she discovered that he was having an affair. He was married three times in total during his lifetime. His second wife was called Winne Madikizela and his third wife was Graca Machel.
Nelson Mandela Fact 16: He was elected national president of the ANCYL in 1950. Although he argued against a racially united front, he was outvoted. He became influenced by people such as Karl Marx, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin and Friedrich Engels, and he began putting more and more effort and commitment into activism.
Nelson Mandela Fact 17: He was repeatedly arrested during his lifetime. On July 30, 1952, he was arrested under the Suppression of Communism Act. Following a trial with 20 other accused, he was found guilty of 'statutory communism' and was sentenced to 9 months labor. He was later banned from attending meetings for a six month period. Nelson Mandela wrote a well known speech called 'No Easy Walk to Freedom', it was read out by Andrew Kunene at a Trasvaal ANC meeting in 1953.
Nelson Mandela Fact 18: He was arrested in 1962 and convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the states. The trial became known as the Rivonia Trial and Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment. He served 27 years in prison. His release was granted in 1990 following an international campaign for his freedom.
Nelson Mandela Fact 19: He joined Nationalist President F. W. de Klerk in negotiations to remove segregation and discrimination between races and establish multiracial elections in 1994, this led the ANC to victory and Nelson Mandela was elected as the first black President of South Africa. He served from 1994 to 1999.
Nelson Mandela Fact 20: He died on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95 years in Johannesburg, South Africa after suffering from a respiratory infection. He was surrounded by his family when he died.
Short Facts about Nelson Mandela for Kids
The above short facts detail interesting information about the life, milestones, history and key events that occurred during the life of this famous character. A fast, simple way to present a short biography of Nelson Mandela with important dates and info that provides details such as the date of birth (birthday), place of birth, education, family, work and career. An ideal educational resource for kids, schools, teachers and social studies.