And if you liked this post, be sure to check out these popular posts:
1 of 34
"Our human compassion binds us the one to the other — not in pity
or patronisingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our
common suffering into hope for the future."Nelson Mandela Foundation
2 of 34
"A leader...is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind."Elliott Brown/Flickr
3 of 34
"I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death."Nelson Mandela Foundation
4 of 34
"No single person can liberate a country. You can only liberate a country if you act as a collective."Babak Fakhamzadeh/Flickr
5 of 34
"I never wanted to be regarded as an angel. I’m an ordinary human being with weaknesses, some of them fundamental. I’ve made many mistakes in my life. I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying."Ted Eytan/Flickr
6 of 34
"You can see that there is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountain tops of our desires."Wikimedia Commons
7 of 34
"The value of our shared reward will and must be measured by the joyful peace which will triumph, because the common humanity that bonds both Black and white into one human race, will have said to each one of us that we shall all live like the children of paradise."Wikimedia Commons
8 of 34
"Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world."Allan Tannenbaum/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images
9 of 34
"Peace is not just the absence of conflict; peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, class, caste, or any other social markers of difference."
Lionel Shapiro/Nelson Mandela Foundation
10 of 34
"Political division, based on color, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one color group by another."Nelson Mandela Foundation
11 of 34
"Let freedom reign."Matthew Willman/Nelson Mandela Foundation
12 of 34
"We hold it as an inviolable principle that racism must be opposed by all the means that humanity has at its disposal."
Matthew Willman/Nelson Mandela Foundation
13 of 34
"The aim here is not to denigrate any self-professed patriotic organisation. Rather, it is to record the tragic fact that, as previous experience has shown, a blind pursuit of cheap popularity, has nothing to do with revolution. The April election results demonstrated in no uncertain terms that the masses themselves are able to distinguish between serious conduct of struggle and petty politicking."South African Tourism/Flickr
14 of 34
"Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end."Wikimedia Commons
15 of 34
"The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days."
The Medina Gazette
16 of 34
"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children."Tomorrow/Flickr
17 of 34
"You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself."Wikimedia Commons
18 of 34
"The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."Thierry Ehrmann/Flickr
19 of 34
"However hard the battle will be, we will not surrender. Whatever the time it will take, we will not tire. The very fact that racism degrades both the perpetrator and the victim commands that, if we are true to our commitment to protect human dignity, we fight on until victory is achieved."Matthew Willman/Nelson Mandela Foundation
20 of 34
"I hate the practice of race discrimination, and in my hatred I am sustained by the fact that the overwhelming majority of mankind hate it equally."Wikimedia Commons
21 of 34
"Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life."
Louise Gubb/Nelson Mandela Foundation
22 of 34
"We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road."
23 of 34
"Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way."
Library of Congress
24 of 34
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."Paul Simpson/Flickr
25 of 34
"Man's goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished."
Library of Congress
26 of 34
"I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."Louise Gubb/Nelson Mandela Foundation
27 of 34
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."Eric Miller/Nelson Mandela Foundation
28 of 34
"A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special."Pedro/Flickr
29 of 34
"Money won't create success, the freedom to make it will."
30 of 34
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."Flickr
31 of 34
"I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended."South African Tourism/Flickr
32 of 34
"It is never my custom to use words lightly. If 27 years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die."
Nelson Mandela Foundation
33 of 34
"As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison."Thomas Berg/Flickr
33 Inspiring Nelson Mandela Quotes On Equality, Perseverance, And Freedom
Nelson Mandela's lifetime of advocating for equality for South Africa's Black citizens against an apartheid regime, which led to his imprisonment for 27 years, cemented him as one of the most important civil rights leaders of the 21st century.
Three years after his release in 1990, he was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. The next year, he was elected as the president of South Africa — the country's first Black head of state and the first elected in a truly democratic election.
Mandela preached the gospel of human rights, mesmerizing the world with his captivating oratory skills each time he spoke. We've compiled some of the most compelling Nelson Mandela quotes into the gallery above, many of which still ring true today.
Nelson Mandela's Fight Against Apartheid
AFP/AFP via Getty ImagesNelson Mandela was among the most significant civil rights leaders of the 21st century.
Born and raised in Qunu, South Africa, Nelson Mandela was born as Rolihlahla Mandela, the son to the principal counselor to the Acting King of the Thembu people. He was later given the name "Nelson" by his primary teacher following the colonial custom of giving students Christian names.
Later, Mandela went on to study law and became one of the first Black lawyers in South Africa.
His legal prowess came in handy when he got involved with the Black liberation movement in South Africa. At the time, Black South Africans were legally segregated and oppressed based on their race through the country's apartheid system.
Nelson Mandela was elected as the leader of the youth wing of the African National Congress (ANC) liberation movement in the early 1950s. Mandela sought to dismantle the apartheid system through peaceful means of protest but that changed after the white-ruled government prohibited the ANC and enacted state-sanctioned violence against nonviolent protesters.
Inspired by armed resistances in Algeria and Cuba, Mandela led a guerrilla resistance against the government. For this, he was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1962. He spent 27 years behind bars along with other liberation leaders from the ANC at the infamous prison island of Robben Island.
Mandela's imprisonment became a symbol of racial injustice, sparking criticism and condemnation from nations worldwide. He was finally released from prison on Feb. 11, 1990, with the support of South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk.
Mandela Led South Africa Into A New Era
Nelson Mandela's captivating inauguration speech on May 10, 1994.
In 1993, three years after his release from prison, Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his lifelong commitment to bringing down South Africa's racist apartheid system.
As a show of good faith, Mandela shared his prize with Willem de Klerk who he worked with to implement a peaceful transition to majority rule in government for Black South Africans.
The next year Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa's president. It was a historic occasion, as he was the country's first Black head of state in its 40-year history as an independent nation. He was also the first president that the country elected in a truly democratic election.
During his 1994 inauguration speech, Nelson Mandela masterfully acknowledged the suffering and violence brought on by the country's horrific apartheid system while also putting forth the significance of hope for a new era:
"We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both Black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity — a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world."
It remains one of his most famous speeches during his lifetime, and the source of some of the most moving Nelson Mandela quotes. He continued to advocate for peace, equality, and prosperity for his people long after his presidency until he passed away in December 2013. His death was mourned by people across the globe.
A Moving Speaker Of Equality
Allan Tannenbaum/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty ImagesNelson Mandela and wife, Winnie, raising fists upon his release from prison after 27 years.
As an international leader of human rights who spoke on injustices in places all around the world, Nelson Mandela became famous for his moving speeches. He spoke not only on issues of racial discrimination, but also on freedom, human rights, and poverty.
"Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us. His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better," said former U.S. President Barack Obama following Mandela's death.
But one of his most powerful orations, which contains some of the most powerful Nelson Mandela quotes, was ironically never delivered by Mandela himself. At the time of the ANC Conference on Sept. 21, 1953, Mandela, as president of the ANC, had been served a ban order which prevented him from public speaking. His speech was read on his behalf.
Though Mandela was unable to deliver the speech in person, the words he wrote on the paper were powerful, embodying not only the urgency of his mission to fight oppressing forces but also the righteousness of such a pursuit for equality:
"You can see that 'there is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountain tops of our desires.' Dangers and difficulties have not deterred us in the past, they will not frighten us now. But we must be prepared for them like men who mean business, who do not waste energy in vain talk and idle action. The way of preparation for action lies in our rooting out all impurity and indiscipline from our organization and making it the bright arid shining instrument that will cleave its way to Africa's freedom."
His words and writings, which he shared while advocating for the liberation of Black South Africans and beyond, continue to ring true in the hearts of generations to come.