Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in the Robben Island prison in South Africa for his leadership in the struggle to free all the people of South Africa and to bring democracy to South Africa.
I first heard of Nelson Mandela in the mid-80’s when the movement to support the freedom struggle against apartheid came to Atlanta, Ga. Rev. James Orange, Rep. Tyrone Brooks, and Dr. Joseph Lowery introduced me to that struggle, and we joined the movement pushing for the State of Georgia to divest our pension funds from South Africa.
Ambassador Andrew Young had a very close relationship with Mandela and his party, the African National Congress (ANC). Young and Dr. Lowery helped lead the American support work for the freedom struggle in South Africa. I remember getting up in the middle of an April night in 1994 to watch freedom become real in South Africa.
One of Nelson Mandela’s many everlasting legacies will be leading an armed liberation struggle to nonviolent struggle that finally achieved power and justice and victory.
Because of the move from armed struggle to nonviolent struggle, Mandela validated again the strategic power of nonviolent struggle.
No leader ever had more reason for hatred and violence. No leader ever had more reason to escape the struggle, yet he refused bitterness and hatred. He never compromised. Mandela never bowed his head or gave an inch.
Mandela knew that organized workers were critical to freedom and democracy. That is why the African National Congress’ closest ally was COSATU — the Congress of South African Trade Unions.
So when we get tired or discouraged or want to give in or give up on our own struggle for democracy, freedom and justice, let us remember Nelson Mandela. None of us will have to sacrifice 27 years of our lives in a dungeon. None of us will be called on to lead a people from armed struggle to nonviolent struggle. But all of us can carry his legacy in our own nation’s struggle. May we have the strength and character to be worthy of that legacy.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was first published outside the United States (and not published in the U.S. within 30 days) and it was first published before 1978 without complying with U.S. copyright formalities or after 1978 without copyright notice and it was in the public domain in its home country on the URAA date (January 1, 1996 for most countries).Tags: apartheid, democracy, freedom, inequality, Mandela, Nelson Mandela, nonviolent, nonviolent civil disobedience, organize, organized workers