As Washington prepares to dedicate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, News4 remembers another civil rights leader – Nelson Mandela, who led South Africa from apartheid to freedom.
At Robben Island, tourists fill a prison corridor to get a close look at the cell where Nelson Mandela served 18 of his 27 years as a political prisoner. He secretly wrote his memoirs, "Long Walk to Freedom,” there. Former political prisoners who served time with Mandela now serve as guides at Robben Island, which was considered the harshest prison in South Africa.
“I was surprised at how inhumane the quarters were and the treatment the prisoners received in prison,” tourist Tampa Bell said.
Mandela served hard labor. As a leader of the African National Congress, he fought against the racial repression that denied Africans their civil rights. Blacks could not vote or travel without restrictions.
At first, the ANC embraced nonviolence, but some of its members took up arms to fight apartheid while Mandela sought peace, beginning secret talks with the government that led to the release of prisoners in 1990 and the first general election.
Mandela and President F.W. de Klerk won the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1994, in the first election in which he was allowed to vote, Mandela was elected president.
Mandela admires Martin Luther King Jr. as a freedom fighter and borrowed one of Dr. King’s most famous phrases -- "free at last" -- when he spoke of his pride in the people of South Africa.