International Nelson Mandela Day
Learn all about International Nelson Mandela Day, celebrated annually on July 18.
"Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom."
- Nelson Mandela
Inspired by Nelson Mandela’s call to action for the next generation, the UN General Assembly declared July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day in honor of the revolutionist’s birthday. First celebrated in 2010, July 18 is now annually recognized as a tribute to Nelson’s monumental commitment to justice, human rights and freedom.
Nelson grew up in South Africa where he pursued his education, but was unable to complete his degree from the University College of Fort Hare as he was expelled for joining a student protest. Nelson ended up finishing his BA in 1943 at the University of South Africa and, upon his growing interest in politics, he began to practice law after earning his degree during the following two years.
Between 1942 and 1962, Nelson went on to form the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), establish the first Black-owned law firm, make strides towards equality for everyone and much more. Under the pseudonym David Motsamayi, Nelson secretly left South Africa to travel around Africa and England. After about seven months of travel he returned to South Africa in July 1962, where he was charged and arrested for leaving the country without a permit and encouraging workers to strike.
Nelson was sentenced to five years in prison in 1962, and a month after returning to Pretoria Local Prison from Robben, Island police raided a secret hideout in Rivonia, Johannesburg used by the ANCYL and Communist activists. The Rivonia Trial would convict Mandela and 10 others for sabotage and he wasn’t released from Victor Verster Prison until February 11, 1990.
According to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, in the years following his release Nelson continued to push forward, jointly winning the Nobel Peace Prize with President FW de Klerk and voting for the first time in April 1994. Just one month later he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected President. His term ended in 1999 and he dedicated his time to working with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation - all established by Nelson. An advocate for the equality of every living person, Nelson’s refusal to submit to oppression in tough times is a reminder for everyone to choose dignity, speak up, and forgive instead of hate.
The year after Nelson’s death in 2013, the UN Assembly established the Nelson Mandela Prize, an award distrubed every five years to one man and one woman who go above and beyond to help humanity.
This year, the Nelson Mandela Foundation is honoring Nelson’s memory by taking #ActionAgainstPoverty and encouraging everyone to celebrate by investing in sustainable food platforms, and planting cost-effective produce and fruit trees in vulnerable communities in support of food production.
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