Remembering Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013

F.W. de Klerk, left, the last president of apartheid-era South Africa, and Nelson Mandela, his successor, wait to speak in Philadelphia in 1993. Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Nelson Mandela died this week at age 95. He will be forever known as a humanitarian – a man who carried a message of reconciliation and forgiveness close to his heart, even after being jailed for 27 years, and consistently shared it with others.

Mandela’s belief in peace and equality never faltered during his incarceration. In fact, it resonated so loudly, he was able to effect change from behind bars. Released from prison in 1990, he led the fight to end the system of apartheid, and later became South Africa’s first, democratically elected black president.

In 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor he shared with F.W. de Klerk, the white Afrikaner leader who freed him from prison three years earlier and negotiated the end of apartheid.

He will be buried in a state funeral on Sunday, Dec. 15, in his ancestral hometown of Qunu in the Eastern Cape province. According to CNN, current South African President Jacob Zuma said that Sunday will be a “national day of prayer and reflection,” in which people throughout the nation will gather in places of worship to conduct “prayer services and meditation reflecting on the life” of Mandela.

Mandela showed the world that a strong, consistently positive message can be used as a lever to effect great change.