Today in people’s history: Nelson Mandela released from prison

Today marks exactly 25 years since the day in 1990 when anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela was released from prison to become a free man in South Africa. There followed a difficult four years of negotiation with the white-rule government to allow one-person one-vote, which led in 1994 to the overwhelming election of Mandela as president. He served until 1999, handing over the reins of government to a younger generation and entering an extended, graceful retirement. He died at the age of 95, a revered elder world statesman and a Nobel Peace Prize winner (with F.W. de Klerk), on December 5, 2013.

Mandela’s 27-year-long imprisonment, the first 18 of them at the heinous Robben Island Prison off the coast of Cape Town, inspired worldwide calls for his release. Over time, from the 1960s through the 1980s, Mandela became the most visible symbol of resistance against apartheid. The socialist countries actively supported the African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black political organization in South Africa and the leading force in the freedom struggle, which Mandela served in a number of capacities. In the Western countries, South Africa gradually became subject to boycotts, sanctions and divestment campaigns, making prospects for the future of white rule virtually untenable.

Mandela wrote an autobiography, Long Road to Freedom, which was made into a film in 2014. People’s World reviewed it here.

See video here of Mandela’s release.

Photo by Claw Murray (Photobucket)


Eric A. Gordon
Eric A. Gordon

Eric A. Gordon is the author of a biography of radical American composer Marc Blitzstein, co-author of composer Earl Robinson’s autobiography, and the translator (from Portuguese) of a memoir by Brazilian author Hadasa Cytrynowicz. He holds a doctorate in history from Tulane University. He chaired the Southern California chapter of the National Writers Union, Local 1981 UAW (AFL-CIO) for two terms and is director emeritus of The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring Southern California District. In 2015 he produced “City of the Future,” a CD of Soviet Yiddish songs by Samuel Polonski. He received the Better Lemons "Up Late" Critic Award for 2019, awarded to the most prolific critic. His latest project is translating the fiction of Manuel Tiago (pseudonym for Álvaro Cunhal) from Portuguese. The first two books, "Five Days, Five Nights" and "The Six-Pointed Star," are available from International Publishers NY.