Nelson Mandela is revered by many as the father of modern South Africa. He was the first Black and democratically elected official in the country and his principles helped bring down apartheid. Apartheid laws classified races into four categories: Black, colored, Asians, and white, and consolidated all power and control to the white minority. Though Mandela was initially apprehensive about partnering with other races, he came to revere their struggle and worked with them to unify the country.
Apartheid translates to “apartness” or “separateness” in Afrikaans, which is exactly what it did to the country. It was legally implemented in 1948, forcing people of color out of urban neighborhoods, and preventing them from obtaining full citizenship.
Mandela spent his youth as a revolutionary who fought apartheid principles, and was sentenced to prison for more than three decades for efforts. But, even in prison, he still urged leaders to overthrow apartheid and fight prejudice.
He was released after 27 years and was elected president four years later. His presidency symbolized somewhat of a formal end to apartheid, after years of orchestrating demonstrations, secret talks, and other peacemaking efforts. And though the presidency itself was historic enough, he went even further to establish a bill of rights, constitutional amendments, and laws to ensure that everyone in the country was recognized.