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The Nelson Mandela Lecture Series

In 2005, the Africana Research Center and the Department of African and African American Studies initiated the Nelson Mandela Lecture Series to recognize and introduce the Penn State community to the scholarship of an African civil rights activist. The annual lecture is named after Nelson Mandela because he is the by far the most noted civil rights activist who not only changed the sociopolitical structure of South Africa, but also challenged the world to have a conscience in addressing human rights.

About Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Black nationalist and statesman, Nelson Mandela, has left an indelible mark not only in South Africa, but worldwide. Sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 and released in 1990, he had remained steadfast in his stance against racial domination and his commitment for democracy and free societies. He was born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. Mandela started a bachelor’s degree at University College of Fort Hare, but was expelled, along with the late Oliver Tambo, for participating in a student strike. As a result, he completed his degree by correspondence from Johannesburg and completed his law degree at the University of the Witwatersrand.

In 1942, Mr. Mandela joined the Africa National Congress (ANC), becoming one of the founders of the Youth League and developing their Programme of Action. His activism increased during the early fifties, where he traveled the country organizing resistance to discriminatory legislation. He was arrested and given a suspended sentence for his involvement in the campaign and subsequently confined to Johannesburg for six months. Mandela and Tambo opened the first black legal firm in the country. Mandela became both Transvaal president of the ANC and deputy national president. In the late fifties, Mandela turned his attention to the Bantustan policy and pass laws and predicted a program of mass evictions, political persecutions, and police terror would ensure. Throughout the fifties, he was constantly banned, arrested, and imprisoned.

 In 1960 the ANC was banned after the Sharpeville massacre and Mandela, still on trial, was detained until 1961. While underground, he helped create the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto We Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”) to resist the practices of racial domination. A year later, in 1962, he was arrested for leaving the country illegally and incitement to strike. He conducted his own defense. He was convicted and jailed for five years, but while serving his sentence, he was charged with sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment. Throughout his imprisonment, Mandela never compromised his political principles and became a symbol for resistance, struggle, and hope. During the seventies and eighties, he refused offers of freedom if he recognized Transkei and settled there and renounced violence.

Nelson Mandela received the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, along with the then South African State President, F. W. de Klerk, and accepted it “on behalf of all South Africans who suffered and sacrificed so much to bring peace to our land.”  He was inaugurated as the first democratically elected State President of South Africa on May 10, 1994 and served until June 1999.  Despite retiring from public life, he continued to give voice to local and worldwide issues until his death in December 2013.