Nelson Mandela was the former President of South Africa as well as an anti-apartheid activist, philanthropist and political leader.
He was born in Mvezo, Cape Province, South Africa on July 18, 1918.
After studying law at the University of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand, he later found work as a lawyer in Johannesburg.
In 1943, he joined the African National Congress, which fought against the widespread oppression of black South Africans, and became politically active, fighting against colonialism and later the institution of apartheid by the ruling National Party in 1948.
Mandela soon emerged as a key leader in the resistance to racist apartheid laws, being arrested multiple times and later being sentenced to life in prison in 1964 after being trialed for conspiring to overthrow the government.
Amid growing pressure both internally and throughout the world, the South African government finally released Mandela after 27 years in 1990.
He soon worked alongside President F.W. de Klerk to dismantle the apartheid regime in 1991 and usher in the peaceful 1994 general election in which he was elected as the country’s new president.
During his presidency from May 1994 to June 1999, Mandela worked to promote racial reconciliation, fight poverty and expand healthcare for all South Africans.
After leaving office, he remained active in many philanthropic efforts throughout the world, particularly ending the HIV/AIDS crisis and reducing poverty.
For his efforts promoting social justice, democracy and peace, he was awarded dozens of prestigious accolades, including the Nobel Peace Prize and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Mandela passed away on December 5, 2013 at age 95, but not before becoming known as one of the most prominent and respected civil rights leaders and humanitarians of the modern era.