94-year-old Nelson Mandela is currently in critical condition and could die any day now. Everyone has heard of Nelson Mandela, but way too may people don't really know why he is such an iconic figure in history.
Here's the answer, in broad terms.
Nelson Mandela is basically the Ghandi of South Africa. He was at the forefront of the South African people's fight for independence and racial equality and was the first South African president to be elected democratically.
In the late 1940s, South Africa was taken over by a group of British white supremacists called the National Party. They enforced a system of racial segregation known as apartheid, which eliminated a great deal of civil and legal rights of black people. Blacks were provided inferior public services and job opportunities and were treated as inhuman slaves.
Nelson was able to go to law school because he was from a rich family. As a young lawyer, he joined the African National Congress (ANC) and launched a series of non-violent acts of massive resistance. Nelson set out to correct the injustices of apartheid by uniting the mistreated and challenging the authority of the National Party through means of legal action and protest.
In 1962, he was convicted of trying to overthrow the government and was put in jail for 27 years. He was released in 1990 thanks to an international campaign made up of his loyal followers.
Upon his release, Nelson became President of the ANC and began negotiating with then-South African President F.W. de Klerk about desegregating South Africa and abolishing apartheid. It was in 1994 when South Africa had its first democratic, multi-racial election and Nelson went on to become the first black president of South Africa.
As president, he created a new constitution that gave blacks equal rights and sought justice for the abused. By expanding economic, education, healthcare and land reform, Nelson rescued the South African people from poverty, disease and civil war.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and has received over 250 other awards for his contributions to South African politics and for his influence on other oppressed societies.
He is referred to as "The Father of the Nation" in South Africa because he had the courage to stand up to a force no one else thought could be overcome and was willing to risk his life to fight for the freedom of his people.
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