South Africa’s transition from apartheid marked one of the major political stories of the 20th century. As leader of the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela came to symbolize the struggle and sacrifices of millions of South Africans as they fought to do away with the injustices and brutality of the Apartheid regime.
Mandela (fondly referred to as “Madiba” by his countrymen and women) played a key role in ensuring a peaceful transition to the post-apartheid era, a feat for which he received the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.
Published in 1995, Long Walk to Freedom was Mandela’s account of the struggle, and while there have been other Mandela biographies, this is the only one that was co-written by the man himself.
Mandela walks us through his life, starting with his early bringing as the foster son of a Thembu chief through to his school years, and early career as a law clerk working in Johannesburg. He describes the early years of his political activism, the growing influence of the ANC, and the clashes with the apartheid regime that eventually saw him arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.
He talks about life on Robben Island, where he spent the majority of his 27 years in prison, and describes in detail the events and negotiations that led to his release. Finally, he talks about the end of Apartheid, and the final transition to a democratic, multi-racial South Africa that saw Mandela installed as South Africa’s first black President.
In Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela captures the key events in the long struggle to end Apartheid, and in the process, delivers a book that will for many years stand out as one of the most important political memoirs to come out of Africa.
Along with the Apartheid Museum, this book provides an important record of what it meant to live under Apartheid, and the spirit of resilience that drove South Africans to stand up against their oppressors.
Other Mandela biographies include Mandela: The Authorised Biography (written by the late Anthony Sampson), Mandela: A Critical Life (by Tom Lodge) and Mandela: The Authorized Portrait (by Andrews McMeel).