Bio of the Month Nelson Mandela
BIOGRAPHY®: NELSON MANDELA
- The world that Nelson Mandela grew up in is referred to as an "African World". What do you think this term means?
- What does the name "Rolihlahla" mean? Why do you think Mandela's parents called him this? What were the circumstances by which Rolihlahla was renamed Nelson, and why is this name change significant?
- In Johannesburg, Mandela saw himself for the first time as a "black man in a white society." What were the conditions of the city that led him to this realization?
- What was the African National Congress (ANC)? How was Mandela first introduced to this group, and how was he affected by it?
- What is the actual definition of apartheid? How do you think the South African government was able to enact and enforce laws that alienated a majority of the population?
- What was the Defiance Campaign? What was Nelson Mandela's role within it? How did the government respond to this movement?
- What happened in the town of Sharpeville in 1960? What were the reactions and counter reactions to this violent event? What happened to Mandela as a result?
- When Mandela and the other ANC leaders were finally apprehended, what were the charges brought against them? Why did these defiant figures plead guilty and refuse to mount a defense?
- What were the conditions on Robben Island? Why do you think the ANC leaders were sent here, as opposed to given a death sentence?
- What happened in Soweto in 1976? What effects did these events have on national and global opinions of apartheid?
- Why did the government offer to release Mandela in 1985? What were the conditions of this release, and why did Mandela refuse?
- After almost thirty years in prison, Nelson Mandela was released in 1990. Chosen to lead the newly restored ANC, how did Mandela approach the South African government that had imprisoned him for three decades?
- What was significant about the election of 1994?
- What did Mandela accomplish as President of South Africa? What personal qualities made him such an effective and respected leader?
From the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries, South Africa was dominated by colonialism and racism. Many consider this to be the definitive period of South African history. In reality, the history of this region is thousands of years old, and is as diverse and fascinating as any place on earth. Students should break up into small groups, each assigned a different period in South Africa's history (Pre-historic, the Iron Age, colonization, 20th century). Group members should research their period, pinpointing key developments and creating a timeline that highlights them. Timelines should include captions and visual supplements. When the activity is completed, the class will have a full timeline of South Africa's history, a great resource for future discussion and research projects.
The ANC was one of the primary organizations committed to ending apartheid in South Africa. In small groups, ask students to research the history of the anti-apartheid movement online or at the library. Then, ask students to create posters or flyers that might have been created during this era as part of the movement to end apartheid.
South Africans are a diverse people. They are black and white, African, Afrikaner, and Indian. They speak Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, English, and many other languages. They are Christian, Hindu, and Muslim. For this exercise, students should break up into small groups, with each assigned an ethnic or cultural body represented in South Africa. Students should research the history and culture of their group, focusing not only on the group itself, but its relationships and interactions with other groups. Students should then organize their research into a presentation or short essay.
The election of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa in 1994 was a huge victory for the anti-apartheid African National Congress. His election, however, did not mean an immediate cure for this troubled country. In the aftermath of apartheid, poverty, poor education systems, and lack of healthcare were just a few of the problems that plagued South Africa. Unfortunately, many of these issues remain unresolved. Students should locate one or two newspaper articles documenting one of the many ongoing problems affecting the lives of South Africans. Students should then research the origins of the problem, and the political solutions proposed and implemented. In a brief newspaper article, students should write about an issue or concern in contemporary South Africa. Students can present these articles to the larger class or group in a short presentation.