Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa on 18 July 1918 and was given the name of Nelson by one of his teachers. His father Henry was a respected advisor to the Thembu royal family.
Mandela was educated at the University of Fort Hare and later at the University of Witwatersrand, qualifying in law in 1942. He became increasingly involved with the African National Congress (ANC), a multi-racial nationalist movement trying to bring about political change in South Africa.
In 1948, the National Party came to power and began to implement a policy of ‘apartheid’, or forced segregation on the basis of race. The ANC staged a campaign of passive resistance against apartheid laws.
In 1952, Mandela became one of the ANC’s deputy presidents. By the late 1950s, faced with increasing government discrimination, Mandela, his friend Oliver Tambo and others began to move the ANC in a more radical direction. In 1956, Mandela went on trial for treason. The court case lasted five years, and ended with Mandela being acquitted
He died on 5 December 2013, aged 95.