Nelson Mandela’s Childhood Defined His Identity

3412 words - 14 pages

When a child is born, he knows little about the world that he will spend the rest of his life in. Through experiences as a young child – such as experiences with parents, culture, family values, etc. – it is possible for one’s childhood environment to shape many aspects of his life. Indeed, one could argue that a childhood environment can greatly influence how one will spend the rest of one’s life. The life of Nelson Mandela is an interesting example of this ideology. In his case, the connection between childhood and life is special and goes even further than the first instinctive connections that often come to mind. When one examines the interesting details the childhood of Nelson Mandela, one is compelled to conclude that Nelson’s Mandela childhood environment fashioned his politics.

In order to understand fully how the childhood environment of Nelson Mandela fashioned his politics, one must look at the identity of Mandela and the time and context in which he lived. Who was he and what types of political actions did he do? Nelson Mandela was an indigenous South African political leader. He lived in the time when South Africa was colonized by Europeans. The British, who wanted to secure the maritime route to India and acquire South Africa, began to challenge Dutch settlers in the nineteenth century. At the end of the century, the British fought a bloody campaign, known as the Boer War in 1899 against the Dutch settlers. The war ended in a British victory and the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging in 1902. In effect, the treaty established a joint British-Afrikaans condominium over South Africa and bargained away the political rights of the native people. Moreover, in their desire to reconcile with the Boers, the British passed the Union Act of 1910 that institutionalized white supremacy and the inferior position of blacks. But while the British tended to adopt a policy of benign neglect, the inclusion of a highly discriminatory “colour bar clause” in the Union Act sowed the seeds of black protest, opposition, and revolution. What followed was blatant discrimination, which included the introduction of blacks-only territorial reserves under the Natives Land Act of 1913, more stringent enforcement of the system to restrict blacks from entering urban areas, and the disenfranchisement of blacks (Gibson, 34).

Mandela earned a law degree from University of South African in 1942 and he was a prominent member of Johannesburg’s African National Congress (ANC). In 1952, he became ANC deputy national president advocating nonviolent resistance to apartheid (racial segregation). However, after a group of peaceful demonstrators were massacred in 1960, Mandela organized a paramilitary branch of the ANC to carry out guerrilla warfare against the oppressive government. After being acquitted in 1962 on charges of treason, he was arrested in 1964, convicted of sabotage, and sentenced to life in...

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