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Mandela was born on January 18, 1918, in Mvezo, Transkei, in the southeast of South Africa. He was named Rolihlahla, which means "troublemaker" in the Xhosa language. Mandela's grandfather was the ruler of the Thembu people and his father was a local chief.
Mandela was the first person in his family to attend school (both of his parents were illiterate). On the first day of school, a teacher at the Methodist mission school, Miss Mdingane, re-named him Nelson. Nelson did well in school and went on to graduate from college and attend law school at University of the Witwatersrand (Mandela was the only black African student in his class). Mandela once said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
By 1942, Mandela was involved in political causes. He began attending meetings of the African National Congress (ANC), a revolutionary group whose aim was to fight apartheid (laws establishing racial separation and oppression in South Africa).
Mandela helped found the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) in 1944. He organized boycotts and strikes to fight for voting rights and equality for black South Africans. In 1944, he married Evelyn Ntoko Mase (they had 4 children).
In 1956, Mandela and over 100 associates of his, were arrested for treason. They were all later acquitted. Mandela divorced Evelyn in 1958, then married Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela (with whom he had 2 children).
The ANC was banned in South Africa in 1960. In 1964, Mandala was sentenced to life in prison for fighting apartheid. After spending 27 years in prison, Mandela was released in 1990. Upon his release, Mandela worked to repeal apartheid and stop the growing violence in South Africa. He also helped establish multiracial elections which would occur in 1994. For his work, Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 (he shared the prize with with F. W. de Klerk, who was then the President of South Africa).
In 1994, South Africa held its first truly democratic, non-racial election and chose Nelson Mandela as its president. Mandela championed reconciliation, the peaceful resolution of grievances after decades of repressive laws against black South Africans. Without Mandela's guidance, South Africa might have lapsed into a bloody civil war.
Mandela published his autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom," in 1994. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed in 1995 (it was chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu). The Commission was a court-like organization that was formed in order to document the attrocities that the Afrikan apartheid police state had perpetrated against black people, and thus begin to heal the rift that had formed between the races in South Africa and avoid a civil war.
Freedom Day, celebrated on April 27 each year, commemorates the anniversary of South Africa's first real democratic elections (in which Mandela was elected president).
Mandela served as President of South Africa until 1999 (he refused a second term). On his 80th birthday, he married Graça Machel (he had divorced Winnie in 1996). His second book, "Conversations with Myself," was published in 2010.
Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013, at the age of 95. He died of natural causes after a long illness. He will be remembered as one of the greatest peace-makers and statesmen of all time.
More Related to Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela Printout (Early Readers)
Color a picture of Nelson Mandela with a very short description. Or go to a pdf of the page.
Nelson Mandela Printout
Color a picture of Nelson Mandela and read a short biography. Or go to a pdf of the page.
Nelson Mandela Timeline and Quiz
Read a short timeline of Mandela's life, answer 5 questions, and color a small picture of Nelson Mandela. Or go the answers. Or go to a pdf of the page plus the answers.
Nelson Mandela Fill-in-the-Blanks (Cloze)
Fill in the blanks in short biography of Nelson Mandela. Or go the answers. Or go to a pdf of the cloze plus the answers.
Nelson Mandela Activity Book
A printable 5-page book with activities about Nelson Mandela (for fluent readers). Activities include: Color the picture, label the maps, color the flags, answer the questions, and fill in the timeline of Nelson Mandela's life. Or go to a pdf of the entire 5-page book.
Nelson Mandela Wordsearch Puzzle
Find the words relating to Nelson Mandela in the wordsearch puzzle, then use the extra letters to find the secret message: "Nelson Mandela fought apartheid." Or go to the answers. Or go to a pdf of the puzzle and the answers.
Nelson Mandela Connect-the-Dots
Connect the dots to draw a picture of Nelson Mandela. The dots use numbers, capital letters, and lower-case letters. Or go to the answers. Or go to a pdf of the puzzle and the answers.
Printable Read-and-Answer Worksheet
A printable worksheet on Nelson Mandela, with a short biography, a picture to color, and questions to answer. Or go to the answers. Or go to a PDF of worksheet and the answers.
Match the Syllables: Nelson Mandela-Related Words
Match two syllables to make 10 Nelson Mandela-related words. The words are leader, struggle, prison, transform, boycott, provoke, power, humble, elect. Or go to the answers. Or go to a pdf of the worksheet and the answers.
Match the Syllables: Nelson Mandela-Related Words
Match three syllables to make 10 Nelson Mandela-related words. The words are apartheid, oppression, sabotage, poverty, prejudice, tyranny, abolish, election, president, legacy. Or go to the answers. Or go to a pdf of the worksheet and the answers.
Write Nelson Mandela-Related Definitions
In this worksheet, write the definition of a word, what part of speech it is, and use it in a sentence. Words: apartheid, protest, regime, segregation, tyranny, to boycott, to protest, revolution, treason, reconciliation. Or go to the answers. Or go to a pdf of the questions and answers (subscribers only).
Match Each Word to Its Definition
Match each Nelson Mandela-related word to its definition (printable worksheet). Words: apartheid, protest, justice, equality, prison, courage, segregation, humble, reconciliation, legacy. Or go to the answers. Or go to a pdf of these pages (subscribers only)
Nelson Mandela Alphabet Code
Use the alphabet code to find the message about the great statesman Nelson Mandela. Answer: "People often call Mandela by his clan name, "Madiba", or by "Tata", which means "Father"." Or go to a pdf of the puzzle + answers.
A Lesson from Nelson Mandela: Essay Prompt
What lesson have you learned from reading about Nelson Mandela's life? How could you use this lesson to improve yourself and the world? Or go to a pdf of the prompt.
Nelson Mandela KWHL Chart
This is a printable KWHL graphic organizer for the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. The student writes: What I Know, What I Want to Find Out, and What I have Learned, for six facets of Nelson Mandela's life.
Find a Nelson Mandela-Related Word for Each Letter
See if you can think of and write down a Nelson Mandela-related word or phrase for each letter of the alphabet. Go to a sample answer page. Or go to a pdf of the worksheet and sample answers.
Flag of the ANC (African National Congress)
Read about the flag of the ANC.
ANC (African National Congress): Flag Printout to Color
Print the flag of the ANC and color it.
Biography Report Organizers
These graphic organizers guide the student through finding pertinent information about a person, and listing it. After all the fields in the graphic organizer are completed, the student can more easily write a biography.
Flag of South Africa
A page on the flag plus a quiz to print.
Flag of South Africa to Color
Color a blackline master (printout) of the flag of South Africa.
Learn about the country of South Africa.
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