Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela March 17 2010

I absolutely love to read and seek out anything that I can get my hands on associated with South Africa. So, I've decided share my reading list and reviews with you starting with Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. Enjoy! And feel free to post your own comments! From the Publisher: Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in SouthAfrica won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. Since his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela has been at the center of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world. As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule. He is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality. The foster son of a Thembu chief, Mandela was raised in the traditional, tribal culture of his ancestors, but at an early age learned the modern, inescapable reality of what came to be called apartheid, one of the most powerful and effective systems of oppression ever conceived. In classically elegant and engrossing prose, he tells of his early years as an impoverished student and law clerk in Johannesburg, of his slow political awakening, and of his pivotal role in the rebirth of a stagnant ANC and the formation of its Youth League in the 1950s. He describes the struggle to reconcile his political activity with his devotion to his family, the anguished breakup of his first marriage, and the painful separations from his children. He brings vividly to life the escalating political warfare in the fifties between the ANC and the government, culminating in his dramatic escapades as an underground leader and the notorious Rivonia Trial of 1964, at which he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He recounts the surprisingly eventful twenty-seven years in prison and the complex, delicate negotiations that led both to his freedom and to the beginning of the end of apartheid. Finally he provides the ultimate inside account. My Review: Having just finished reading Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, I can honestly say that I am glad this was not the first book on South Africa that I read. Nelson Mandela rose to become the iconic symbol of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa in part due to his leadership capabilities and in part due to the myth generated around his incarceration on Robben Island. In his autobiography, Mandela tells his story in a rambling, timeless way that often leaves you wondering just what year he’s writing about. At the same time, he draws a clear picture of the love and passion that he has for his country and his people. Mandela was a privileged boy (raised by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo after his father passed away) who grew into an idealistic young man who evolved into the leader of the ANC (African National Congress) who, in the end, founded the Umkhonto we Sizewe (MK), the organization that took up arms to battle the apartheid system; his book gives insight into how that evolution occurred. In the second part of the book, it is fascinating to watch Mandela grow from a man who advocates violence as the only means of combating apartheid (hence, landing him on Robben Island) to a man determined to negotiate with F. W. de Klerk (then State President of South Africa) to release all political prisoners, establish majority rule and draft a new constitution for South Africa. Throughout his autobiography, Nelson Mandela never, ever falters in his dedication to the freedom fighting cause of ending apartheid. His approach to that battle grows and changes in response to the times, his environment and his own personal growth. By Mandela’s own admission, while in prison he came to learn that his battle was against the system of apartheid rather than the white man. Perhaps this revelation was what allowed Mandela to sit at the table and discuss the future of South Africa with the “enemy.” If you are seeking an unbiased perspective on the history of apartheid, this book is not it. Mandela clearly articulates what, in his perspective, caused the rise and fall of apartheid in South Africa. In the end, however, I would recommend this book to the reader with a solid understanding of the history of apartheid and South Africa. While far from a light read this book details one man’s perspective on the history of his country and the pivotal events that enabled change.