Global civil rights advocate Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95, according the president of South Africa Jacob Zuma. The legendary activist and leader had battled diminishing health conditions for many months.
Mandela was known to his nation as Madiba, but known to the world as the man who broke the back of the racist policies of Apartheid South Africa.
His interest in education and politics started early in life: he studied hard and eventually became a lawyer, but it wasn't until the 1948 election victory of the Afrikaner dominated National Party supporting the segregationist policies of Apartheid that the young lawyer Nelson Mandela found his voice.
From then on he became an active leader in the ANC—The African National Congress—devoted to ending Apartheid and the discrimination that kept thousands of black South Africans living in ghettos without proper housing, healthcare or education.
The long struggle against apartheid in South Africa became bloody through much of the 1950s and early ‘60s, as Mandela and the ANC felt the only way to make progress was to use arms and force.
He was branded a terrorist and after living on the run for months, Mandela was arrested in 1962. He was charged with sabotage and treason and in June of 1964 he was sentenced to life in prison.
He was a model prisoner on remote Robben island, but even while he was in jail his power and influence grew. The chant of "Free Nelson Mandela" became the anthem of the struggling nation and pressure grew on the South African government to release him.
Finally, under intense pressure from the rest of the world and after meeting with Mandela secretly in prison, South African President F.W. De Klerk reversed a long standing ban on the ANC and other anti-apartheid organizations.
In 1990, Mandela, now 70, was released from jail. The event was broadcast live all over the world.
After his long exile, Mandela worked tirelessly to achieve South Africa's first multi-racial elections. His partnership with De Klerk in dismantling the oppression of Apartheid won both men the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and in 1994 Mandela was elected President.
“Our friendship taught me the value of properly listening,” de Klerk said.
Nelson Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 and became a beloved figure around the globe.
A series of health problems, however, prompted the former president to retire from public life.