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He was born Rolihlahla in July of 1918, in a nation of which he was not truly a citizen, into a country called the Union of South Africa, a part of the British Empire. The world would come to know him as Nelson, a name given him by a grade school teacher: Nelson Mandela. At long last, after 95 years of life, Mandela has returned to his ancestors. Between birth and death he has blazed an amazing life of love and revolution, of struggle and resistance, of prison and isolation, of freedom – and now death.
Perhaps it’s a false contradiction. But today there are many who stress the pacifist message with which South Africa’s Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) emerged from prison in 1990, while few put an emphasis on his rebellion against apartheid, including armed rebellion, which landed him in prison. Mandela was a political activist and a revolutionary at least since 1942.
Nelson Mandela’s passing has drawn responses from throughout the U.S. and the world. To oppressed and working people, Mandela was a symbol and example of self-sacrifice and lifelong commitment to revolutionary change. Although the struggle inside South Africa and throughout the region is by no means complete, the legacy of Mandela through the ANC, SACP, COSATU and other affiliated organizations will live on.