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Nelson Mandela: An Indispensable Life in Pictures

Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in the village of Mviza in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. His father was a counselor to a local king. He chose for his son the name Rolihlahla, which translated from Xhosa means literally “pulling a branch off a tree” — or, more colloquially, “troublemaker.” A schoolteacher would confer upon him the name Nelson. - Eyedea Presse/Gamma
Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in the village of Mviza in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. His father was a counselor to a local king. He chose for his son the name Rolihlahla, which translated from Xhosa means literally “pulling a branch off a tree” — or, more colloquially, “troublemaker.” A schoolteacher would confer upon him the name Nelson. Eyedea Presse/Gamma
Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in the village of Mviza in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. His father was a counselor to a local king. He chose for his son the name Rolihlahla, which translated from Xhosa means literally “pulling a branch off a tree” — or, more colloquially, “troublemaker.” A schoolteacher would confer upon him the name Nelson. Eyedea Presse/Gamma
Mandela and other co-defendants appear at the famous Treason Trial in Johannesburg, 1956. Mandela, along with his longtime ally Oliver Thambo and 154 others, was charged with treason. The case, which dragged on for five years, by which time all were acquitted, brought the struggle of the ANC to international attention. Eyedea Presse/Gamma
Mandela, center, stands amid a gathering of other co-defendants during the Treason Trial. Barry Von Below
Mandela sews prison clothes by the shore in 1964. He was sent to the infamous jail at Robben Island, a barren rock off the coast near Cape Town, in 1963 in part for his activities supporting the ANC’s militant wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (the Spear of the Nation). His 27-year-long imprisonment made him the world’s most famous political prisoner. Time & Life Pictures
Winnie Mandela stands by a portrait of her then husband in their Soweto home, 1985. Louise Gubb—Corbis
In the Athlone neighborhood of Cape Town, regime police use horsewhips against protesters demonstrating in support of the jailed Mandela. Ruthless crackdowns, mass protests and bouts of insurgent violence across the country’s townships captured world attention and generated international support against the apartheid state. David Turnley—Corbis
Mandela walks with his wife Winnie after being released from prison, Feb. 11, 1990. Greg English—AP
Nelson and Winnie Mandela watch a performance at a homecoming party after his release from prison. Feb 23, 1990. Peter Turnley—Corbis
In 1993, Mandela is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize alongside then South African President F.W. de Klerk, whose rapprochement with Mandela and the ANC helped engineer the end of apartheid. Reuters/Corbis
Mandela greets the crowds on the campaign trail in February 1994 as South Africa readies for its first all-race general election. David Brauchli—AP
Mandela supporters perch on a billboard in Durban, April 1994. Peter Turnley—Corbis
Surrounded by bodyguards, Mandela celebrates his triumph in April elections, and prepares to assemble South Africa’s first multi-racial government. David Turnley—Corbis
Mandela, 75, takes the oath of office in the political capital Pretoria as the first democratically elected President of South Africa. De Klerk, once an adversary, joined government as Mandela’s deputy. Louise Gubb—Corbis
Mandela tours Cape Town’s Eerste River township in November 2000. The year before, he opted to not contest for re-election, giving way to his party deputy Thabo Mbeki. Under Mbeki’s ANC government, economic — less than racial — inequality would come to define South Africa in the post-apartheid era. Reuters/Corbis
Mandela addresses a conference on AIDS in Durban, July 2000. Mandela is credited with breaking the conspiracy of silence that surrounded the disease in his home country. Gideon Mendel—Corbis

Nelson Mandela, the revolutionary-turned-prisoner-turned-president who led South Africa out of apartheid and into an era of political and racial reconciliation, passed away on Dec. 5, 2013. He was 95. As both the father of his nation and its conscience, Mandela’s remarkable life changed history and its legacy resonates around the world.

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