On December 5, 2013, the world lost one of the most inspiring, determined, and humanitarian leaders it has ever seen. Nelson Mandela was the first black South African to hold office as President of South Africa, and his term lasted from 1994-1999. He was a member of the African National Congress, an organization that opposed apartheid and advocated willingness to break laws or go to prison as a result of that opposition. Mandela’s main goal was to abolish apartheid and establish racial equality in South Africa, goals similar to the leaders of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Mandela’s actions were inspired by Gandhi and many other civil and human rights activists all over the world, and his own actions continue to inspire political leaders today.
Apartheid had been apart of South African life for as long as the country had existed: racial discrimination and segregation were the norm and were not only accepted, but encouraged. There are multiple similarities between South African apartheid and the segregation and racism in the United States that was prevalent before the 1970’s, and black South Africans shared a struggle for human and civil rights similar to African Americans. For example, The African National Congress bears great similarity to the Black Panthers in the United States because of their ideology that violence is sometimes necessary in order to make a difference. The American Civil Rights movement served as an inspiration to many anti-apartheid supporters and gave South Africans hope that they could reform their country’s laws and eliminate social stigmas about race. Although apartheid was not abolished until the early 1990’s, the leaders and organizations who pushed for its removal made a huge splash in world politics and called global attention to the social injustices that had been kept quiet and off the global stage for hundreds of years. The leaders, such as Mandela, who led the charge against apartheid became role models for politicians everywhere by embodying courage, perseverance, and compassion.
Nelson Mandela’s legacy of equality and freedom will live on as long as people are free of discrimination based not only on race, but also on gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. and have the ability to choose their own paths in life free from racial prejudice. The United States strives to uphold those beliefs, and therefore honors Mandela’s memory and his vision of a world that much closer to being free from discrimination and prejudice.