Mandela's life is a story of struggle, tragedy, revolution, and ultimately triumph. The Apartheid system in South Africa was set up so a small white majority had complete control over the entire nation. While the majority black population was forced to live in reservation style encampments, the white population profited and practiced a policy of legal exploitation. Mandela was a revolutionary who at first fought against this regime with the words of a pacifist. When that action failed he became a more militant leader... some even accused him of being a terrorist.
After more than two decades of protests and speeches, in 1961 he reached his breaking point when police killed 69 peaceful protesters in Sharpeville, the following year he began his his campaign of armed insurrection. In 1962 Mandela was convicted of trying to overthrow the government and was sentenced to life in prison. He was 44 years old... he would not be released until the age of 71.
When the Apartheid system finally crumbled Mandela was released and was quickly elected as the first black president of South Africa. In 1999 he walked away from politics but has been seen ever since as the moral voice of his nation and in many ways its modern father.
Mandela is seen world wide as a symbol of hope and inspiration, and his legacy is greater than I can give give homage to in a simple blog post. Please fee free to watch the video link below for a brief introduction to this amazing man.