Nelson Mandela Essay
The world leader I have chosen to write about is Nelson Mandela: Nelson Mandela’s rise in the political arena can be traced back to his years as one of the leading members of the African National Congress, otherwise known as the ANC, beginning in 1944 (Mandela, 2009). The ANC was one of the oldest South African civil rights unions. The union’s primary purpose, the freedom and equal rights of all black citizens from the practice of apartheid–South Africa’s then legalized form of racism–was a natural draw for Mandela.
Mr. Mandela describes in his own words the deciding moment when he joined the ANC: I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments, [that] produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people (Mandela, 2009). Mandela’s desire and drive helped sustain him in the difficult years ahead. After joining the ANC and creating its first youth league (Mandela, 2009). Mandela went on to organize many nonviolent protests and civil disobedience demonstrations throughout much of the country.
Growing in popularity, these campaigns were eventually deemed illegal by the National Party–the white supremacist government in power at the time–and ultimately led to the imprisonment of Mandela in 1962 (Mandela, 2009). Although many people advocated for his release throughout the years, it was from his own prison cell twenty years later when Nelson Mandela finally negotiated his own freedom and began the long, tedious, yet peaceful process of creating a new government for the South African people. Working together with South Africa’s new president, F.W. de Klerk, Mandela negotiated heroically in the creation of a new and non-discriminatory government.
The two men made history on September 26, 1992 when they signed the Record of Understanding, a document formalizing their agreement to create a new, non-racial, democratic government freely elected by the people (Mandela, 2009). Nelson Mandela went on to become the first freely elected President of South Africa and continued the hard work of rebuilding his country. He served his presidency for five years, stepping down from politics in 1999. Although removed from public office, Mandela continued to advocate for issues important to his country; issues such as AIDS, poverty, and human rights. Again, Nelson Mandela worked tirelessly on behalf of his people, receiving numerous rewards throughout the years, until he formally retired from public life in 2004 (Mandela, 2009).
As a result of his life’s work, Nelson Mandela forever changed the social view and practice of apartheid in his country. Politically, his efforts resulted in the first non-discriminatory, democratic (majority rule) government for South Africa. Therefore, I find these to be the two most significant social and political changes that occurred as a result of Nelson Mandela. Task B.The individual I have chosen to write about is Martin Luther King, Jr.: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was known as a religious reformer and civil rights activist who rose to greatness during the civil rights movements of the United States.
Dr. King began his career as a civil rights activist in 1956 (About Dr. King, n.d.) when he was hired as a spokesman for the Montgomery Bus Boycott; a campaign organized and fully supported by the black community of Montgomery in protest of the segregation of the city bus lines. This boycott, which lasted for 381 days, ended successfully with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring racial segregation in public transportation unconstitutional (About Dr. King, n.d.). This landmark protest would prove to be but one of the many successful campaigns Dr. King would lead throughout his lifetime.
In 1958, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) elected Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as their president (About Dr. King, n.d.). The SCLC’s mission of providing guidance to the growing civil rights movement (occurring throughout much of the south) served as the perfect platform for Dr. King’s message. From here, Dr. King would go on to organize many campaigns, most of them occurring in Birmingham, Alabama, then described “as the most segregated city in America” (About Dr. King, n.d.).
Drawing from the nonviolent teachings of Mohandas Gandhi, Dr. King’s peaceful protests and civil disobedience demonstrations were televised in stark contrast to the brutality of Birmingham’s police force. The televised beatings of young black protesters proved too much for the nation to bear, prompting congress to begin legislation on behalf of the civil rights movement in 1962 (About Dr. King, n.d.).
Although the Birmingham demonstrations led to the writing of his open and now famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail;” an articulate, well written manifesto of Dr. King’s beliefs and actions (About Dr. King, n.d.), time would show that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s greatest moments were still to come. In 1963 Dr. King gathered more than a quarter-million people to Washington D.C.’s National Mall for the “March for Jobs and Freedom,” now commonly referred to as the “March on Washington” (About Dr. King, n.d.)
It was here that Dr. King delivered his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, firmly placing himself on the world stage as a social and political leader, as well as becoming the youngest man–30 years of age– to receive the Nobel Peace. As a result of all the publicity Dr. King drew to the civil rights movement, congress soon passed the historical 1964 Civil Rights Act, and soon after the 1965 Voting Rights Act (About Dr. King, n.d.); sweeping legislation declaring it illegal to discriminate against blacks or any other minority people, and removing any obstacles obscuring blacks of their right to vote.
After the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Dr. King carried on with his work, choosing to focus on economic justice and international peace. Tragically, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while visiting a motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968 (About Dr. King, n.d.).
Through his work, Dr. King introduced our country to the practice of “nonviolent” demonstrations, socially changing the way many people participate in protests even today. Due in part to his nonviolent campaigns, Dr. King’s efforts resulted in the passing of the Civil Rights Acts, one of the most significant political changes occurring in the history of our country. Therefore, I find these to be the two most significant social and political changes resulting from the actions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.