On this day in 1912 the South African political party, the African National Congress, was founded. It was founded as the South African Native National Congress in Bloemfontein and aimed to promote the rights of South African blacks. In 1961, the ANC formed a military wing called Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) who fought apartheid through violence.
Nelson Mandela was a major leader of this military wing and spent 27 years in prison for his role in the violence. Whilst labelled a terrorist by the South African government and other governments around the world, many in South Africa and abroad thought him a freedom fighter and called for his release. Upon his release in 1990 Mandela led the ANC in the negotiated end to apartheid and became South Africa’s President in 1994. The ANC has governed South Africa since, currently under President Jacob Zuma.
The world is still in mourning for Mandela, who died on December 5th. Mandela provides a symbol of resistance for oppressed peoples everywhere, and has inspired millions with his fight to end apartheid and bring racial equality to South Africa. His work in bringing an end to years of oppression has ramifications not just in South Africa but around the world. As US President Barack Obama said in his speech at Mandela’s memorial:
“like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set. And so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.”