South Africans and other observers around the world celebrate July 18 as Mandela Day, spending 67 minutes engaged in a charitable act in order to honor Nelson Mandela's 67 years of public service.
Nelson Mandela was President of South Africa for five years in the '90s. He was the first black president and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end apartheid, which was racist government policies in South Africa that legalized discrimination against blacks.
Initially, Nelson Mandela embraced peaceful means of resistance against the government. But eventually, he changed his tune and supported violence. Inspired by guerrilla war tactics, Mandela started an armed resistance group to combat apartheid in South Africa.
For this and other offenses, Nelson Mandela was brought to trial and sentenced to life imprisonment. Although he was offered freedom in exchange for denouncing violence, he refused. Mandela served almost 20 years and was the world's most famous political prisoner before his release in 1990.
Three years later he won the Nobel Peace Prize, and four years later he became the President. He enjoyed wide support from the international community and dramatically altered South Africa's political landscape. Nelson Mandela is credited for transitioning South Africa from white minority to black majority rule.
Mandela retired from politics after just one term as President, but he continued to perform work such as building schools to help the community. He died in 2013, when he was 95-years-old.
July 18, the day he was born, was declared Mandela Day. The custom is for everyone to perform 67 minutes of charity in honor of Nelson Mandela's 67 years of public service.
Today in South Africa's Cape Town, volunteers from Parliament passed out sandwiches to the hungry and others in high positions are doing charity work for children. The UN has declared the day as one to bring attention to the plight of political prisoners. The Nelson Mandela Foundation takes a strong stance in the fight against poverty and urges everyone to make every day a Mandela Day, volunteering their time and efforts to help free people in situations less fortunate than themselves.
Because of his efforts and accomplishments, Nelson Mandela has been an inspiration to civil rights activists around the world.
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