Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela in July of 1918 in the village of Mvezo, in Transkei, South Africa. “Rolihlahla” in the language of his country means “pulling the branch of a tree,” but more commonly translates as “troublemaker,” and it fit like a glove. Before the death of his father when he was nine years old, he was baptized into the Methodist Church. He went on to become the first in his family to attend school. After the death of his father (and probably because of the prejudice of the British ruling class educational system) he was coerced into taking the first name “Nelson.”
At the law firm where he clerked, Mandela befriended a member of the ANC and Communist Party, as well as Nat Bregman, a Jewish communist who became his first white friend. Attending communist talks and parties, Mandela was encouraged that whites and blacks were blending together as equals. However, he said later that he did not join the Party because its atheism conflicted with his Christian faith, and because the South African “Apartheid” struggle was racially based rather than a product of class warfare.
Becoming increasingly political, Mandela marched in support of a successful bus boycott, and continued his higher education, working on his BA at night. Deciding that armed resistance was inevitable, he was arrested for subversive activities, and served 27 years in prison before public pressure brought an end to the oppression and persecution of the South African’s he so dearly loved. After his release, he then became the first black President in the history of the nation, and quickly became the patron saint of the oppressed people of the world.
Nelson Mandela outlasted Communism, as well as the oppression and persecution of Apartheid, and his story brings to mind the wisdom of at least two of the Proverbs in chapter 12:
The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
but the house of the righteous will stand.
A man is commended according to his good sense,
but one of twisted mind is despised.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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