Nelson Mandela Dead At 95

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December 5, 2013 | 5:05pm EST

Civil rights icon Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95.
The former South African president passed away on Thursday.
Born in 1918, Rolihlahla Mandela grew up in the tiny village of Mvezo, where his father ruled as chief. Following his father’s death, he became the first person in his family to be sent to school, where he was named Nelson by a teacher.
He attended Fort Hare University, but was thrown out for opposing the institution’s policies, and moved to Johannesburg, where he became interested in politics. Following the 1948 election victory of the Afrikaner-dominated National Party, who supported the apartheid policy of racial segregation, Mandela became a leader of the African National Congress (ANC), which led a sabotage campaign against the government in a bid to bring an end to apartheid rule.
He was arrested in 1961 and sentenced to 27 years in prison for his for his anti-authority stance.
He served 18 years behind bars, the majority of which he spent on Robben Island, where he studied law and earned his degree. He was supported by a growing movement calling for his release and in 1998, the likes of Sting and Peter Gabriel performed at a 70th Birthday Tribute concert in London in support of the cause.
He was finally freed from Victor Verster Prison on 11 February, 1990 and upon his release he promised to bring the country together through peace and democracy in a speech which was broadcast around the world.
Taking up overall leadership of the ANC in 1991, he successfully led the party through negotiations to allow South Africa’s first multi-racial elections, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Both black and white South Africans went to the polls in 1994, and Mandela was elected the country’s first black president, as well as the oldest, aged 75.
He is celebrated for helping heal racial tension in the country, as well as tackling child poverty, overhauling healthcare, improving education and introducing a raft of social reforms.
Following his retirement from office in 1999, he became a global human rights activist, establishing the Nelson Mandela Foundation and continuing a battle against the AIDS epidemic and child poverty in developing countries.
Mandela’s later years were blighted by ill health, and he retired from public life in 2004.
Married three times, he wed his third wife, Graca Machel, at the age of 80. He fathered six children and has 20 grandchildren.
Mandela’s birthday, 18 July, is designated as Mandela Day, a yearly international celebration of his legacy.