Long Walk

Long Walk


Professor’s name



Long Walk To Freedom-Nelson Mandela

Historical Context

Long Walk To Freedom (1994) is Nelson Mandela’s autobiography detailing his life journey from his childhood as a young boy from his rural village in South Africa to the day he was inaugurated as the first elected president of South Africa. The book details Nelson Mandela’s experiences as an anti-apartheid activist to be jailed as a terrorist in Robben Island to being a leader of the African National Congress (ANC) party and being a renowned cultural icon. The book is the only memoir published during the icon’s life and is a testament to how great South Africa’s first black president was. Worth noting, the book was first ghostwritten by Richard Stengel and published by Little Brown and Co in 1994. The book details his early life, education, coming of age and 27 years of imprisonment. Mandela was deemed a terrorist in the wake of apartheid, and this is what made him be jailed. At the time, the African National Congress had been outlawed, and Mandela’s involvement as its leader contributed to him being jailed. The autobiography shows an understanding of Mandela’s life and the accurately describes apartheid years in South Africa. Mandela’s autobiography justifies the kind of choices he made and why he resulted to the use of violence to fight apartheid. In 1961, alongside other members of the ANC, he planned a paramilitary group known as Umkhoto we Sizwe (MK) which resulted to bombing public buildings to destabilize the current government. This is what led Mandela to be deemed a terrorist. Additionally, a similar occurrence took place in 1976 for the Soweto uprising which was led by a new generation of individuals who did not have contact with the previous generation of ANC leaders who were rather old. Worth noting, the Soweto uprising was critical in bringing a new political climate to the country which led to the politicization of numerous young South Africans.

Nelson Mandela’s Life and Experiences

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18th, 1918, in a small village called Mvezo, located along the banks of River Mbashe in Transkei in South Africa. Rolihlahla Mandela was his birth name which means pulling a tree branch in the Xhosa language. Mandela became the first black president to be democratically elected in South Africa and is celebrated for having won the Nobel Peace Prize for his philanthropic work in 1993. He was a politician and social rights activist. Having joined the ANC in 1942, Mandela led a peaceful and non-violent campaign against racist policies and the South African government for 20 years. For many years, Mandela father played the role of counsellor to the tribal chiefs, but he lost his fortune alongside his title following a dispute with the colonial magistrate. Mandela was the only child at the time his father lost his title. His mother was left with no choice but to move the family to an even smaller village called Qunu. This village was nestled in narrow grassy valleys. The village did not have roads but only small footpaths linking grazing pastures to one other. Mandela’s family lived in a hut and survived on beans, maize, pumpkin, and sorghum as it was all the family could afford. Water came from streams, springs and cooking took place indoors. Mandela enjoyed playing games for young boys and acted male-right-of-passage scenarios with clay and tee branches.

Mandela was the first person to attend school in his family and the name Nelson was given to him by his teacher as was the custom for the British educational system within South Africa. At the age of 12, Mandela’s father succumbed to lung disease and his life-changing his life drastically. Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo adopted Mandela forcing him to leave the life he knew in Qunu behind. He moved to the provincial capital of Thembuland and started staying at the chief’s royal residence. Here he was given the same responsibilities and status as the chief’s other two children. Mandela started taking up classes in a room next to the palace where he studied history, English, Xhosa, and Geography. It was at this point that Mandela developed an interest in African history. He came to learn how African people coexisted together in peace until white people discovered Africa and started colonizing them. White people shattered the fellowship of black men who once lived as brothers sharing air, water, and land with white people who eventually ended up keeping these things for their own benefit (Bonner, 1013). Mandela later joined Wesleyan Mission School, Wesleyan College and Clarkebury Boarding Institute, where he attained academic success through hard work. Initially, he was mocked for being a country boy by his classmates at Wesleyan but eventually, he made various friends. In 1939, Mandela joined the University of Fort Hare, which was the only higher learning institution that accepted black people at the time. It was Africa’s equivalent of Harvard. In his first year, Mandela’s focus was on Roman-Dutch law and in the year that followed, he was appointed to serve in the Student Representative Council. The position came with backlash causing him to resign from the position and causing him to be expelled from the institution. He returned home to find Regent Jongintaba had arranged for planned marriage for him. Feeling trapped, he eloped and started his life in Johannesburg, where he took up several jobs, including clerk and guard while still studying for his bachelor’s degree. Eventually, Mandela joined the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg where he studied law.

Mandela became an active member of the anti-apartheid movement in 1942 when he joined ANC. The movement’s goal was to transform the party into a mass movement gathering support of millions of working people and rural peasants who felt they did not have a voice in the current regime. In 1949, ANC took up other methods, including civil disobedience, strikes, boycotts, non-cooperation, redistribution of land, compulsory education, trade eights and policies of full citizenship. In 1956, alongside 150 others Mandela was arrested on charges of treason for political advocacy. They were eventually acquitted. Mandela married three times and had six children. He wed, Evelyn Ntoko. His first wife in 1944 with whom he had four children. In 1958, Mandela married Winnie Madikilela, with whom he had two daughters, before marrying Zindziswa, the then-South African ambassador to Denmark (Ocholla, 41). Mandela was later arrested in 1962 for using guerilla tactics to put an end to apartheid. He served a 27-year sentence after which President Frederik announced his release. Alongside President de clerk, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace award for his role in eliminating apartheid in South Africa. He was elected South Africa’s president in 1994 after the country held its first democratic elections. He served the position for four years before retiring at the age of 85. He later died in 2013 at 95 years after years of suffering lung infection and cancer. The reason behind the writing of the book Long Walk to Freedom was to show the desire for freedom that Mandela has for his people and how he transformed his life from a frightened young boy to the bold man people know him to be.

The Impact of the book Long Walk to Freedom.

Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom has a ton of lessons for the audience. From the text, the audience gained insight into the struggles and fight for righteousness. The audience experience first-hand how Mandela helped push many black South Africans into joining the fight for freedom. It is obvious that Mandela did not advocate for violence, all he wanted was to [ut an end to racism and to push for a government that prioritized the needs of its people instead of colluding with white settlers. The audience learned that at times one must result to uncouth ways to get things done. Although Nelson Mandela condoled violence and despised the use of weapons, he had to result to forming and using military groups to fight apartheid. Mandela’s approach and speeches got better as the ANC party became popular over the years. The heat among Africans was evident. The issue eventually escalated into armed conflict. Additionally, the audience encounters Mandela as a principled and proud man, as depicted by how he refused an offer that would guarantee his freedom after he was arrested. In 1985, the then-government offered to free him from prison if he agreed to publicly renounce his methods and ideas. Mandela turned down the offer terming it as immoral. This speaks to the kind of leader he was. The text in this book gives the audience an opportunity to view Mandela as a real and principled leader. Mandela once said that he had not achieved anything yet. He said that the work was far from over, and it was upon future generations to continue with his work. Mandela’s ultimate goal was to liberate oppressed people from their oppressor’s. After achieving all these things, Mandela was happy and believed his country was headed in the right direction. Additionally, the text boosts the audience confidence in the rule of law. This is demonstrated in the ruling made against Mandela after he was arrested and charged with treason in the 1950s. Secret police in South Africa claimed that Mandela was taking part in communist activities leading to the arrest of 155 ANC party leaders, with Mandela included. Eventually, after a series of rulings, the court found Mandela and his colleagues not guilty. The lesson here is that the justice system works and that people should have faith in it.

Works Cited

Bonner, Philip. “The Headman, the Regent and the ‘Long Walk to Freedom’.” Journal of Southern African Studies 45.6 (2019): 1013-1031.

Ocholla, Dennis Ngong. “Information and knowledge access for social justice: Perspectives from Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.” NELSON MANDELA (2021): 41.