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February 11

 

February 11, 1990

Nelson Mandela Released from Prison

Apartheid in South Africa became an international focus for American equal-rights activists, so African-Americans celebrated when Nelson Mandela was freed after spending 27 years in South African jails.

In 1944, Mandela joined the African National Congress, which advocated peaceful resistance to apartheid. But when South Africa outlawed the AFN in 1960, Mandela urged a more active challenge to apartheid, and in 1964 he was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of terrorism in a plot to overthrow the government. He continued to lead the anti-apartheid movement from his jail cell.

Finally, in 1989, South African President F.W. deKlerk started relaxing apartheid programs, and on this date in 1990 he ordered that Mandela be released from prison. (South Africa voted an end to apartheid in 1992. The following year, Mandela and deKlerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1994, in the first election open to blacks, Mandela was elected president of South Africa.)

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