Former South African President Nelson Mandela’s 20th Anniversary of Prison Release
On February 11, 1990 South African officials release Nelson Mandela. This sole action sparked the end of apartheid and the automatic end of Nelson’s 27 year prison term. Nelson was freed from Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa and welcomed by his then wife Winnie and energized supporters.
Nelson, who will be 92 in July, went on to make historic moves such as- winning a Nobel Peace Prize PRIOR to being elected South African’s first black president. (The country held its first ever all race elections four years after Nelson’s release.) He essentially became the face of hope and dreams. His prison number 46664 became the driving force behind his self-titled non-profit charity organization which enlisted a celebrity-endorsed concert and a global 90th birthday celebration with Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Leona Lewis, Denzel Washington, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, Forest Whitaker, Naomi Campbell in attendance.
Fast forward to 2010 the Mandela name is embedded in mainstream media thanks in part to Jennifer Hudson portraying Nelson’s ex-wife Winnie Mandela in an upcoming biopic and Morgan Freeman acting as Nelson in the film, Invictius. (Although Winnie and a few South Africans are not pleased that JHud got the coveted role and not a South African actress, kudos to Hollywood for honoring Winnie as they did with their previous films starring Sophie Okonedo and Alfre Woodard. Our story has be told!)
His legacy is the fact that he left his prison release as Anderson Cooper best put it with his humanity intact. I love the idea that Nelson came out of prison with a smile on his face. I also respect and admire the cultural, political and social impact that Nelson and Winnie had on South Africans. Hats off, Madiba!
photo credits: AP Photo/WireImage/Getty