The world is still mourning the loss of beloved South African leader, Nelson Mandela. Born on July 18, 1918, Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s first black president and an anti-apartheid icon who spent 27 years in prison fighting to dismantle the institution of racism and the system of apartheid.
He passed away on December 5 th at the age of 95.
Here are 20 fascinating facts about this great man:
1. Mandela’s birth name was Rolihlahla Dalibhuna Mandela. Rolihlahla is an isiXhosa which means “pulling the branch of the tree. It can also mean “troublemaker.” He was given the name Nelson at the age of seven when he attended primary school and was required to take on a “Christian” name. Later in life, he was known by his clan name, Madiba.
2. Nelson Mandela’s father had four wives who all lived in different villages. He was the youngest of his father’s sons.
3. The Mandela clan came from royalty. His patrilineal great-grandfather was ruler of the Thembu people in South Africa’s modern Eastern Cape Province. His father was a local chief and counselor to the monarchs.
4. Mandela’s father died when Mandela was just nine years old from an undiagnosed ailment. He spent his last days with Mandela and his mother. Mandela attributes that he inherited his “proud rebelliousness” and “stubborn sense of fairness” from his father.
5. He had a life-long love of gardening which he developed when he went away to a boarding school—the Clarkebury Boarding.
6. Mandela ran away from his adopted home town Mqhekezweni in 1940 when he found out that a marriage was arranged for him.
7. Since he was a young man, Nelson Mandela was always involved in protest against anti-colonial politics and was expelled from the University of Fort Hare. He admitted to being a poor student and completed his degree while in prison. He was the holder of over 50 honorary degrees from universities all over the world.
8. Mandela married his first wife Evelyn Mase on October 5, 1944 and the couple had four children together, although one died during childhood. She eventually divorced him once she became a Jehovah’s Witness and it was found out that he was cheating on her. He married Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 1958. They had two children together but their marriage ended in divorce in 1996 due to political estrangement. He married his third and final wife, Graca Machel when he was 80 years old.
9. When Mandela was wanted for his efforts to change South Africa, he disguised himself as a chauffeur, a night watchman at a mine, a chef and a garden boy. He also took on the fake name of David Motsamayi and secretly left South Africa living in other parts of Africa and England.
10. In his travels, Mandela received military training that was described as “guerilla style” in Morocco and Ethiopia.
11. Mandela was arrested and tried in 1962 for conspiracy to overthrow the government and was sentenced to life in prison. He served twenty seven years until an international campaign was established that lobbied for his successful release out of prison. During his time locked-up, the apartheid government offered to release him on six earlier occasions but he rejected each time.
12. During his prison stint, Mandela wrote a memoir and buried the plastic wrapped pages in containers in a vegetable garden at the prison. The memoir was discovered when prison authorities began building a wall through the garden.
13. Nelson Mandela loved to eat—so much he actually allowed his chef to publish a cookbook of his favorite meals. Farm chicken, tripe and sour milk are some of his favorite things to eat.
14. Mandela promoted an AIDS awareness concert in 2003. Beyonce, Peter Gabriel, Bono and many more preformed. The concert was called the 46664 Concert which was Mandela’s prison number. It is also noted that Mandela’s only son died of AIDS.
15. Nelson Mandela was recognized in the United States and Britain as being a terrorist. It wasn’t until
2008 did the United States officially remove Mandela from its terror list.
16. The United Nations declared July 18 Nelson Mandela International Day —the day of his birthday.
17. The fictional grandchildren of Cliff and Clair Huxtable from the popular television series, The Cosby Show were named Winnie and Nelson Tibideau after Nelson Mandela and his former wife.
18. Nelson Mandela had several items named after him—a nuclear particle (the ‘Mandela particle’), a prehistoric woodpecker (Australopicus nelsonmandelai) and an orchid (Paravanda Nelson
19. In 1985 Stevie Wonder dedicated is Oscar to Nelson Mandela which resulted in his music being banned by the South African Broadcasting Corporation .
20. Over the years, Nelson Mandela received over 695 awards including the Nobel Peace Prize and the U.S. Congressional Medal . He is also an honorary citizen of Canada, an honorary member of the British
Labour Party and an honorary member of Manchester United.