Long Walk to Freedom by author Nelson Mandela

Experiencing the Long Road to Liberation with Nelson Mandela


Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom chronicles his extraordinary journey from humble beginnings in rural South Africa to becoming the legendary anti-apartheid revolutionary and first democratically elected President of South Africa. Published in 1994 after Mandela’s release from 27 years of political imprisonment, this gripping memoir provides unparalleled insight into the struggles and sacrifices that defined his life.

Long Walk to Freedom by author Nelson Mandela

You can find Long Walk to Freedom by author Nelson Mandela on your favorite bookstore, including Amazon.com and Amazon UK.

About author Nelson Mandela

Author Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is one of the most inspirational figures of the 20th century. Born in 1918 in South Africa during the height of apartheid rule, Mandela spent most of his life fighting against racial segregation and working to bring equality and human rights to all South Africans.

After studying law at the University of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand, Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in the 1940s and quickly became a leader in the anti-apartheid movement. He believed in nonviolent protest to provoke change, and was a strong advocate for civil disobedience. However, after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, in which 69 black protesters were killed by police, Mandela helped establish a military wing within the ANC called Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”) to conduct acts of sabotage against the apartheid government.

In 1962, Mandela was convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the state and sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent 27 years behind bars, much of it doing hard labor in the notorious prison on Robben Island. During his long years in prison, Mandela became an international symbol of resistance and the anti-apartheid cause gained momentum around the world. Leaders from all corners demanded his release, and apartheid began to crumble under intense political and economic pressure.

Finally, in 1990 at the age of 71, Nelson Mandela was released from prison to a joyous homecoming in Soweto. With apartheid on its last legs, he led negotiations to establish South Africa’s first democratic elections. In 1994, Mandela realized his lifelong dream when he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president after sweeping the first free elections.

During his single groundbreaking term from 1994-1999, President Mandela focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality. He oversaw the creation of a new democratic constitution for the nation, and worked to heal the racial divides within the country by establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights violations. His government broadened healthcare, housing, education, and social welfare to improve the lives of South Africa’s black majority.

After retiring from politics at age 80, Nelson Mandela continued traveling the world as an elder statesman and leading voice for peacemaking, conflict resolution and human rights across the globe. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his resistance to apartheid and establishing racial reconciliation in South Africa. To this day, Mandela remains one of humanity’s greatest leaders who devoted his life to making the world a more just, free and compassionate place. Though he died in 2013 at the age of 95, his universal message of forgiveness, redemption and the oneness of all people lives on as an enduring inspiration.

Growing Up With Dreams of Freedom

As a young boy born into the Madiba clan in 1918, Mandela lived in the tiny village of Mvezo. He was born Rolihlahla Mandela, and later given the English name “Nelson” by a school teacher. After his father lost his position as village chief in a dispute with a magistrate, the Mandela family moved to Qunu. Despite living in poverty, the precocious Rolihlahla excelled in stick fighting with other boys his age and absorbed the proud heritage of his Thembu tribe from the elders’ colorful stories.

At the Wesleyan mission school, Nelson studied English, geography, and history, often hearing inspiring tales about the wars of anti-colonial resistance. As he writes, “Even as a boy, I defeated my opponents without dishonoring them.” The classroom opened his mind to dreams of freedom.

The Political Awakening of a Young Man

After the death of his father, Nelson was sent to live with the acting Thembu chief Jongintaba at the provincial capital of Mqhekezweni. For the first time in his life, he wore shoes and tasted cake and bread. He observed tribal meetings that offered his first glimpse into “the proper and harmonious interaction between free men.”

In 1939, at age 21, Mandela travelled to Johannesburg and experienced the heady political atmosphere and seeming glamor of the black urban areas. He was alarmed by the extreme exploitation and poverty of black migrant workers. These harsh realities fired his passion for political justice. Shortly thereafter, he enrolled at the University College of Fort Hare, where he became involved in student protests and was expelled.

Returning to Johannesburg, Nelson completed his B.A. degree through the University of South Africa and then embarked on legal studies. He became increasingly influenced by Walter Sisulu, his friend and mentor, to join the African National Congress (ANC) in fighting the racist policies of apartheid.

Leading the Freedom Struggle

In 1952, Mandela helped organize the historic Defiance Campaign involving mass civil disobedience against six unjust apartheid laws. Fired from his job after his arrest, Nelson opened South Africa’s first black law firm with Oliver Tambo, courageously defending victims of apartheid.

He was exiled, banned and arrested again for treason in 1956-1961, narrowly escaping the death penalty. Even in prison, Mandela witnessed the brutality of apartheid, which only inflamed his resistance. After his release, Nelson went underground to assemble the ANC leadership. As he writes:

“I realized that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed.”

When nonviolent protests failed, Mandela reluctantly supported armed struggle and coordinated a campaign of sabotage against government targets. On the run from authorities, Mandela was captured, convicted, and imprisoned from 1964-1990.

Enduring Hardship on Robben Island

Mandela spent 18 years confined as prisoner no. 46664 to a tiny cell in Robben Island maximum security prison, forced to perform hard labor in a lime quarry. As he writes, “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest.”

Deprived of contact with his family, Mandela’s bedrock spirit enabled him to turn adversity into opportunity. Through stealthy political education with other imprisoned ANC leaders, the political discussions and debates strengthened their insight and resolve. Mandela writes:

“I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there was mercy and generosity.”

He adds:

“No one is born hating another person…People must learn to hate.”

Despite intense suffering, Mandela retained his indomitable dignity and took up the mantle as leader and international symbol of freedom for South Africa.

Triumph Over Apartheid

As international political pressure to end apartheid escalated in the late 1980s, even the conservative South African president F.W. de Klerk recognized the necessity of freeing Mandela and legalizing the ANC. After his historic release in 1990, Nelson wasted no time beginning negotiations to finally dismantle apartheid. Despite right-wing racist violence during the transition period, he helped ensure calm by opening dialogue and stressing reconciliation. Mandela reflects:

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy.”

In 1993, Mandela shared with de Klerk the Nobel Peace Prize for shepherding the peaceful transition to democracy. In South Africa’s first free elections in 1994, Nelson was swept into the presidency and his lifelong dream was realized.

Governing With Wisdom and Forgiveness

During his single four-year term, President Mandela focused on healing racial tensions and laying the foundation for a more just society, rather than retribution toward former oppressors. He established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission allowing human rights offenders to confess their crimes publicly by testifying truthfully, instead of trials that would further inflame hatreds and sabotage progress.

Mandela personally stepped into tense conflicts, once even persuading hostile Zulu leaders to throw away their weapons, sidestepping what could have erupted into civil war. As he offered, “If you remove injustice, you remove conflict.”

While there was disappointment that more radical social change did not occur, Mandela is credited with navigating a delicate transition from minority apartheid rule to inclusive democracy. Despite his vast moral authority, Mandela governed with qualities of patience, consensus-building, and focus on gradual evolution.

The Legacy of a Moral Giant

Now hailed as one of history’s towering moral leaders, Nelson Mandela’s message burns as brightly as ever:

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Long Walk to Freedom intimately chronicles the awakening of a liberation fighter whose youthful anger evolved into wisdom, forgiveness, and visionary leadership. Mandela remained committed to non-racialism, sacrifice, courage, and principle against seemingly impossible odds – providing inspiration for oppressed people everywhere. His shining example lights the adventurous spirit that compels each generation to continue humanity’s long walk to freedom.

Read This If You Want To Dive Into One of History’s Most Extraordinary Lives

Nelson Mandela courageously dedicated himself to the liberation of his people, at enormous personal cost. Long Walk to Freedom offers a page-turning portal into the mind and experiences behind one of recent history’s most revered figures. Readers accompany Mandela on his epic journey to end apartheid and gain profound insight into the wellspring of strength, sacrifice and vision to help redeem South Africa.

For anyone seeking to be immersed in the riveting life story of a towering moral exemplar, Long Walk to Freedom is essential reading. Mandela’s shining saga reinforces the power of courage, hope and reconciliation to overcome racial hatred – providing embers to reignite our own passion for universal human dignity.

If you appreciated Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, consider exploring these other captivating memoirs:

  • The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank. It offers a poignant and timely glimpse into the life a young Jewish girl hiding from Nazis during World War II. In vivid detail, Anne records her fears and hopes while confined in a secret annex, capturing powerful insights into human resilience and our shared experience of hardship in traumatic times.
  • Dreams from My Father – Barack Obama. Dreams from My Father is Barack Obama’s introspective memoir that provides profound insight into his search for identity as the son of a Kenyan father and white American mother. He reflects on the complexities of race and class in America while chronicling his intellectual and emotional journey that led him into community organizing and politics.
  • Hard Choices – Hillary Clinton. In Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton delivers an up-close view of her time as Secretary of State, detailing her efforts to restore America’s leadership abroad while facing the global economic crisis, natural disasters, health threats, and the changing energy landscape. It offers thoughtful analysis of her dealings with world leaders and gives readers a unique vantage point into her approach to diplomacy.
  • An Ordinary Man – Paul Rusesabagina. Paul Rusesabagina shares his remarkable story of courage and survival in An Ordinary Man, recounting how his heroism during the Rwandan genocide saved over 1,200 lives. His memoir is an emotionally powerful account that sheds light on unimaginable horrors while showcasing tremendous humanity in a time of utter despair.
  • Infidel – Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ali’s eye-opening odyssey from her traditional Muslim upbringing to her transformation into an outspoken defender of free speech and women’s rights. She intimately chronicles her personal spiritual and intellectual evolution in the wake of 9/11 that led her to break with Islam and speak out against its oppressive doctrine.


What inspired Nelson Mandela to write Long Walk to Freedom?

In his autobiography, Mandela explains that he wanted to tell the story of his life in his own words. After previously allowing others to tell versions of his story without his input, he felt it was important to share his personal experiences and perspectives from his days as a freedom fighter to his time as South Africa’s first black president. The book recounts his evolution from an ordinary village boy to an international civil rights icon.

What time period of Mandela’s life is covered in Long Walk to Freedom?

Long Walk to Freedom chronicles pivotal moments throughout Nelson’s life starting from his early childhood in rural South Africa to his inauguration as the country’s first democratically-elected president in 1994 after decades of apartheid rule. The book offers comprehensive insight into his development as an activist and leader during an intensely volatile period in South Africa’s history.

How did Mandela’s childhood shape his later views?

As a member of the Thembu royal family, Nelson grew up absorbing African history, culture, and oral traditions from elders, which imparted wisdom and shaped his beliefs in racial equality, democracy, and social justice. The poverty Mandela witnessed growing up also opened his eyes to the vast socioeconomic disparities caused by South Africa’s racist policies.

What had the greatest influence on Mandela becoming a social activist?

Mandela describes his political awakening as a process fueled by the worsening reality of apartheid laws entrenching institutionalized racism in South Africa in the 1940s and 1950s. The African National Congress Youth League’s controlled militancy against injustice also inspired him to become an activist-leader. Later, the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre proved a turning point in choosing confrontation over cooperation with the government.

Why did Mandela ultimately renounce violence during the struggle?

In prison, Mandela evolved on strategies for resistance, believing violence often became a tool for mass brutality rather than principled change. He concluded cooperation and reconciliation created greater opportunities for progress, which informed his negotiating of peace as apartheid collapsed in the early 1990s and his emphasis on unifying all South Africans of every color during his presidency.

How did prison change Nelson Mandela’s outlook on life?

Mandela frames prison not just as a place of isolation but of introspection and philosophical evolution. He learned empathy for opponents, embraced mental discipline through physical training, sought knowledge by studying books and languages, and focused on reconciling with adversaries for national healing. In essence, his 27-year imprisonment became an enlightening journey rather than just confinement.

What achievements is Mandela most proud of?

In addition to helping dismantle apartheid and pave the way for South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994, Nelson was proudest of strides made toward equalizing opportunity for black South Africans during his presidency from 1994-1999 through new constitution, integrating schools, healthcare reforms, housing policies, rural developments and other progressive programs.

What critics of Mandela does he address in Long Walk to Freedom?

Long Walk addresses criticism of Mandela for using activist violence early on and later negotiating compromises with apartheid leaders, including his decision as president against seeking retribution. He argues difficult choices were made in good faith but rejects accusations of selling out or acting as a savior, positioning himself as a humble part of the collective movement to liberate South Africa.

Did Mandela accomplish all his goals as president before retiring?

Mandela is frank that many of the economic, educational and land distribution initiatives he wanted were not achieved during his single term as president. He ran as an elder statesmen figure for reconciliation but entrusted the next generation from his party to implement sweeping, equitable changes he helped initiate during the post-apartheid transition.

What was the ultimate message Mandela wanted readers to take from his memoir?

Fundamentally, Mandela portrays his remarkable life journey overcoming adversity as an illustration of every person’s capacity to help positively change the communities around them, which collectively can transform entire societies. By believing in democratic principles, fighting injustice through activism and reconciliation, he says, ordinary citizens can reshape the future.

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