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Talking to our children about the life and death of Nelson Mandela

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“We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear.” ― Nelson Mandela

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Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa. His birth name is Rolihlahla, "an Xhosa term" meaning "troublemaker". He got the nickname Nelson from a teacher in school. Nelson was a member of Thimbu royalty and his father was chief of the city of Mvezo. He attended school and later college at the College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand. At Witwatersrand, Mandela got his law degree and would meet some of his fellow activists against apartheid.

Nelson Mandela became a leader in the African National Congress (ANC). At first he pushed hard for the congress and the protesters to follow Mohandas Gandhi's non-violent approach. At one point he started to doubt that this approach would work and started up an armed branch of the ANC. He planned to bomb certain buildings, but only the buildings. He wanted to make sure than no one would be hurt. He was classified as a terrorist by the South African government and sent to prison.

Mandela would spend the next 27 years in prison. He refused to bend on his principles in order to be released and stated that he would die for his ideals. He wanted all people of all races to have equal rights in South Africa. His prison sentence brought international visibility to the anti-apartheid movement. He was finally released through international pressure in 1990.

Once released from prison, Nelson continued his campaign to end apartheid. His hard work and lifelong effort paid off when all races were allowed to vote in the 1994 election. Nelson Mandela won the election and became president of South Africa. There were several times during the process where violence threatened to break out. Nelson was a strong force in keeping the calm and preventing a major civil war.

December 5, 2013 Nelson Mandela took his last breath at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, South Africa surrounded by his family. He was 95 years of age. His death was announced by President Jacob Zuma. On December 6th, Zuma announced a national mourning period of ten days, with the main event being an official memorial service to be held at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on December 10th. Mandela's body will lie in state from December 11th to 13th at the Union Buildings in Pretoria and a state funeral will be held on December 15th in Qunu.

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* adapted from Wikipedia Nelson Mandela

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