(born July 18, 1918, Umtata, Cape of Good Hope, S.Af.) South African black nationalist leader and statesman. The son of a Xhosa chief, Mandela studied law at the University of Witwatersrand and in 1944 joined the African National Congress (ANC). After the Sharpeville massacre (1960), he abandoned his nonviolent stance and helped found the Spear of the Nation, the ANC's military wing. Arrested in 1962, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He retained wide support among South Africa's black population and became an international cause célèbre. Released by Pres. F.W. de Klerk in 1990, he replaced Oliver Tambo as president of the ANC in 1991. In 1993 Mandela and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to end apartheid and bring about the transition to nonracial democracy. In 1994 he was elected president in the country's first universal suffrage elections; by the time he stepped down in 1999, Mandela was the most universally respected figure of postcolonial Africa.
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