Object of the Fortnight 12/07/13

 ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ Badge

The 18th of July is Nelson Mandela International Day. This annual celebration promotes peace and equality while honouring Mandela (on his birthday) for his achievements through his civil rights activism and South African presidency. Nelson Mandela was born in 1918 in South Africa. In his early twenties, Mandela became involved with the anti-apartheid movement (against racial segregation) by joining the African National Congress (ANC) in 1942. The ANC’s used non-violent methods of protest, such as petitions, boycotts and strikes. By 1961, Mandela has become disillusioned by the lack of progress and turned to violence by co-founding an armed sub-group called MK, which used guerrilla war tactics and sabotage against the government. Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment for political offences in 1963 regarding MK activity. Mandela became a symbol of the black resistance while imprisoned. International pressure called for the South African government to free Mandela and end racial segregation. There was popular protest song in 1984 called ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ by the English band The Special AKA and a Free Nelson Mandela Concert in 1988 at Wembley Stadium, London, raising awareness about his incarceration and the anti-Apartheid movement. People showed their support by carrying, wearing or distributing posters, banners, t-shirts, badges, pamphlets, flyers etc. In our collection, we have an example of a Free Nelson Mandala badge. Badges like this would have been worn by many Mandela and anti-Apartheid supporters.

'Free Nelson Mandela'

‘Free Nelson Mandela’ badge

After 27 years of imprisonment, F. W. de Klerk (the new South African President) released Mandela in 1990. Upon his release, Mandela took up the cause again and appealed for other nations to pressurise the South African government to abolish the Apartheid system. Tensions ran high in South Africa and violent erupted but Mandela and de Klerk negotiated to bring about peace and civil rights reforms. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work. In April 1994, South Africa had its first multi-racial, democratic election and Mandela became the country’s first black president in May 1994 (aged 77). As President, Mandela was keen to foster a united nation between White and Black South Africans. He introduced political, health, housing and employment policies and reforms to strengthen the nation. In 1999, Mandela retired from the political platform, leaving behind a legacy and democratic South Africa. Mandela continues to inspire civil rights activists today. by Lauren Padgett, Education and Collections Intern.

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