Mandela was born in Umtata, Transkei, on 18 July 1918. In 1952 he helped found Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”), which carried out acts of sabotage against the apartheid government. In 1956 he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for incitement and leaving the country without permission.
Mandela spent 27 years in prison between 1962 and 1990 for his activism against apartheid; he was elected president of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1991 and helped negotiate an end to white minority rule in South Africa. After his release from prison, Mandela became known for his advocacy for democracy and human rights and received more than 250 awards over four decades.
In 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as well as being named Time’s “Man of the Year” that same year. In 1994, he became president of South Africa after being elected by an overwhelming majority in the country’s first multiracial election. As president from 1994 to 1999, Mandela worked to rebuild South Africa’s economy while implementing social welfare programs like free healthcare and education for all citizens regardless of race or background. He also negotiated peace agreements with rebel groups such as the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).
Nelson Mandela’s presidency was marked by reconciliation between whites and blacks, introduction of racial equality laws, and strengthening of human rights protection.