What Did Nelson Mandela Fight For? And How Did He Make A Difference?

Many people have wondered: what did Nelson Mandela fight for? Nelson Mandela is a figure who made his mark in the world as a person who stood against unjust action. A man who redefined freedom and became a figure of hope for the people of South Africa.

Freedom for every individual varies in meaning. It is a 7-letter word that carries the weight of every breathing individual in this world. Thus, its definition is more personal than global. However, for the people of South Africa, freedom came from Nelson Mandela, a man admired for his sheer dedication and work against the oppressive white minority.

Nelson Mandela is a figure known and adored by all. He sits on top of a pedestal, highlighting his accomplishments as a political figure and a source of inspiration. Nelson Mandela was an activist who worked to remove or destroy every speck of racial discrimination against the Black community.

He was the first democratically elected Black President of South Africa and gained recognition for his courage and tireless work. A freedom fighter, patriot, prisoner, and political as well as civil rights leader, the contributions of Mandela are not unknown.

We will explore Mandela’s biography and contribution to the South African community and the world. However, one keen question that pops into the mind of every other individual is: what did Nelson Mandela fight for? He mainly fought to tackle and dismantle the injustice practiced against the Black majority in South Africa. However, his fight goes beyond it and can only be captured if we explore his life’s work.

You will find the answer to “What did Nelson Mandela fight?” here. Stay tuned and keep on reading to explore more about this inspirational figure.

Nelson Mandela biography

Nelson Mandela’s life is a source of inspiration for every wandering soul. He rose from the ashes and fought against the apartheid after facing numerous injustices. We will explore and dive deep into the life of the famous Mandela.

The life of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on the 18th of July 1918 in the Thembu royal family in the Mvezo Union of South Africa. This union was a part of the British Empire and was primarily ruled by the white minority. Their domination led them to control land and wealth and take governmental actions.

Mandela’s father died when he was just nine years old, making him the warden of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni. Mandela was of royal blood but could not be made the heir to the throne. However, affiliations with the throne earned him a great name in the community.

Nelson Mandela’s real name was Rolihlahla, which meant troublemaker in Xhosa. Later he earned the clan name Madiba. His English teacher gave him the name Nelson when he attended primary school in Qunu. This was a common practice in primary school where children were given Christian English names either because the white folk could not pronounce their actual names or refused to do so.

For the white folk, the African names were uncivilized and limited their growth to become a fully-functional civilized society. Mandela’s mother was a staunch Christian lady and sent him to the Great Place, a palace in Mqhekezweni.

After completing his primary school at a local Methodist School at the age of seven and moving to the Great Place, Mandela attended secondary school in 1933. This was called the Clarkebury Methodist High School, a Western-infused school with the most prominent Black Africans in the state. Later on, he ventured forth to complete his Junior Certificate in the coming two years.

In 1937, Mandela moved to Healdtown to study in a famous and renowned Methodist College in Fort Beaufort. He worked for his BA Degree at a University at Fort Hare in 1939. However, by the end of his first year, he was suspended for taking part in the SRC, Student Representative Council, for boycotting food. Mandela never returned to complete his degree.

The enraged King at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni demanded Nelson and his cousin, Justice, to complete their education. On refusing him, the King arranged the marriage of both Justice and Mandela. Finding no other solution, both ran away to Johannesburg in 1941.

In Johannesburg, Mandela worked as a mine security officer where he met Walter Sisulu. This individual was an estate agent and became an eminent part of Mandela’s life. With Sisulu’s help, Mandela completed his B.A. through the University of South Africa and returned to Fort Hare for graduation in 1943. Mandela then enrolled in the University of Witwatersrand to study LLB, but because of poor living conditions had to drop out in 1952.

Mandela entered and joined the famous ANC, African National Congress, in 1944 and formed the ANC Youth League, ANCYL. The same year, he married Walter Sisulu’s cousin Evelyn Muse, a nurse. He had two sons, Madina Thembekile “Thembi” and Mkgatho, as well as two daughters, both named Makaziwe, after the first passed away in infancy. After 14 years of marriage in 1958, Evelyne Muse and Nelson Mandela divorced.

With his devoted work in ANCYL, he rose to higher ranks. Soon enough, the ANC adopted the Programme of Action in 1949, which practiced non-violence protests and boycotts.

Recognized for his potential, Mandela was appointed and voted in as the elected President of the ANC in 1950. However, the consistent protests by the ANC led to it being outlawed in the 1960s. The apartheid government did not know there was no stopping the tenacious Nelson Mandela. Mandela went underground and started a new organization called the “Spear of the Nation.”

When leading this organization, Mandela realized the unfair system and took slightly violent measures to ensure his and his people’s safety. This organization was also known as the M.K. and helped to plan attacks on various governmental grounds and buildings.

In 1952, Madiba (clan name given to Nelson Mandela) was chosen as the National Volunteer-in-Chief for the Defiance Campaign against the segregation laws under apartheid. Along with numerous prominent figures, Nelson Mandela was charged and arrested under the Suppression of Communism Act.

In December 1956, Mandela also had to sit through the Treason Trial. Two years later, in June 1958, he married Winnie Madlkizela and had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. However, both Winnie and Nelson separated in 1996

Adopting a fake name of David Motsamayi, Nelson fled South Africa in 1962 and traveled around Africa and England to gain more support and followers. He also trained in Morocco and Ethiopia. However, after he returned to the apartheid state, he was imprisoned for fleeing his country unlawfully and without a permit.

In 1963, Nelson Mandela joined the Rivonia Trial with ten other sentenced prisoners. The apartheid government held the verdict against them, and they were imprisoned for life. Mandela remained in prison for almost three decades and was released 27 years later in 1990.

While he was in prison, many people ran the Free Nelson Mandela campaign to pressure the regime to free the eminent leader. In 1990, the President F.W. de Klerk lifted the ban on ANC and other political parties.

71-year-old Mandela was released on 11th February, 1990, after serving 27 years of prison. After his release under the presidency of F.W. de Klerk, Mandela resumed ownership of the ANC and four years later became the first democratically elected Black African President of South Africa.

As the President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, Nelson Mandela introduced various social and economic programs. He installed the new constitution that made the central government stronger. As a result, he banned all discriminatory acts that were normalized under the apartheid rule.

The Black South African community had suffered a tremendous blow under the apartheid. Despite those atrocities, Nelson Mandela compelled his followers not to seek revenge. Instead, he implored them to forgive all their wrongdoers and work with a kind heart.

Nelson Mandela passed away on the 5th of December 2013 at 95, five years shy of completing a century. On his death, the South African President of the time, Jacob Zuma, said, “What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.”

What was apartheid?

The word “apartheid” is used several times in the previous section. Before we head on to dissect the most crucial section of this article, what did Nelson Mandela fight for, we need to understand the term apartheid.

Descendents from the Ditch colonists had settled in South Africa, and their actual invasion started in the 17th century. Due to their strong stature, they quickly took control of South Africa and declared themselves as the ruling party.

Thus, began the rule of the minority white community over the Black South African majority. During the white governmental administration, various atrocious ideologies were legalized and enforced. The most apparent was racial segregation between the races that lived in South Africa at the time. The absurdity of these laws was not settled well with the majority of the community. Therefore, the government used violence to enforce these laws.

The apartheid began in 1948 after the National Party came to power. Under the apartheid law, they segregated the groups into factions and separated families containing people assigned to different racial categories. The Black South Africans were the most prominent group under their radar. As the white got control, they named themselves Afrikaans, which means “apartness.”

Under this law, a Pass Book Identification was expected to be in possession of every individual, especially the African community. The Pass Laws and Apartheid policies banned Black Africans from entering white urban areas, and they were penalized for not carrying the passbook.

Moreover, under the apartheid law, the Black folk were not allowed to marry white people and were banished from white-populated areas. They were not allowed to set any businesses in white neighborhoods. Hospitals and beaches were segregated, while education and healthcare facilities were restricted.

Due to the racial divide, white women were taught how to use firearms. This was for self-defense in the event of any social unrest occurring. The apartheid was initially or was claimed to promote independent development. That is to say that different races should be allowed to develop independently and on their own. However, the actions of the apartheid strayed away from this belief, and the Black majority were forced into poverty.

Apartheid stripped the non-white community of their fundamental rights in education, movement, and speech. Moreover, by the 1950s, the apartheid government banned marriage between white people and those belonging to other races. This also prohibited sexual relations between the non-white and white communities, as mentioned above.

Moreover, the non-white community was banned from voting in the national election. It was under strict residential economic and social segregation laws. They enforced the “homeland system,” one of their many schemes to promote segregation. Here, the government under the National Party established separate states for the many black ethnic groups. This eventually led to the forced removal of families from their homes and moving them to Bantustans, ethnic states.

The apartheid rule in South Africa led to many unjust rules and regulations depriving non-white individuals of their fundamental rights. Nelson Mandela was aware of these laws and became a pioneer figure in the removal of such laws. He joined the ANC and rose to become a prominent figure in the party. His efforts bore fruitful results. Nelson Mandela fought for justice, peace, equality, and the removal of the apartheid segregated community, which we will explore in detail.

What did Nelson Mandela fight for?

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society where all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

— excerpt from Nelson Mandela’s speech

This quote from Nelson Mandela perfectly encapsulates what he fought for and believed in. We will explore Nelson Mandela’s goals for the future of South Africa in the following paragraphs.

Now that we have understood and explored the majestic and wondrous life of Nelson Mandela and understood the salient feature of the apartheid let us ask the question: What was Nelson Mandela’s goal and what did he fight for?

In 1960, the South African police took a brutal action: the Sharpeville Massacre. This massacre killed 69 peaceful protestors, but justice was not served.

In 1976, 10,000 Black school children, inspired by the Black Consciousness, marched and protected against the new law and wanted to learn Afrikaans in school. In response, the police massacred 100 protestors, and again, justice was delayed. This was known as the Soweto Uprising.

Nelson Mandela stood against such atrocities practiced by the apartheid state ruling South Africa. He fought for the equal rights of every individual in the nation and to ensure that no man or woman was left unattended. Mandela envisioned a country where equality in rights and opportunities prevailed. He hoped to destroy apartheid so that no man lives a life of injustice.

The main thing Nelson Mandela fought for was the removal and destruction of the apartheid ideology and laws promoting segregation. Mandela’s primary fight was against the oppressive minority. These white folk took it upon themselves to suppress the majorities in the country.

Mandela fought and struggled for freedom. He wanted to disempower the growing and violent power of the minorities who were abusing the black community of South Africa. Brave Black South Africans protested against the unfair treatment within the apartheid.

The rising leader of the ANC, Nelson Mandela, fought to dismantle and disempower racial discrimination. Due to his dedication, the most famous political prisoner of South Africa turned into the first democratically elected President.

Nelson Mandela fought to topple the brutal social disorder that apartheid had normalized in the country. Mandela aimed to curate a social plan that would benefit everyone living within South Africa. He was not talking against white domination, nor did he want to impose black domination; he wanted equality. As a result, Mandela fought to lead South Africa out of apartheid and revolutionize the country through reconciliation.

Thus, when Nelson Mandela freed the black community from the shackles of the apartheid, Mandela implored them not to practice violent crimes against them. He spoke against the brimming resentment many black individuals had against the white folk.

He fought to unite individuals of every community and race while promoting national reconciliation. Moreover, he quickly became a symbol of the fight against many racial segregation laws. Therefore, his main struggle was against discrimination and apartheid while promoting freedom. Mandela’s goal was to end this governmental law by eradicating apartheid.

Instead of separation, hate, and violence, Mandela wanted inclusion and hope to erupt within the hearts of every living individual despite their race. He believed that people of different races and cultures could share a common land while nourishing their bond.

Here are several notions and aspects that Nelson Mandela fought for:

  • For freedom: The overwhelming National Party worked to break every non-white individual’s freedom. They limited movement and led many people to lose their rights as a free individual. What Nelson Mandela did was highlight the importance of freedom and how it is the birthright of every individual.
  • Against racial discrimination: Nelson Mandela fought against racial discrimination that many non-white individuals faced daily. This was purely based on their race and had no proper basis. Nelson Mandela stood against this ideology to promote fair laws.
  • To reconcile: After the end of the apartheid, the majority black community resented the minority white community for their acts. Nelson Mandela announced love and honor and wanted every non-wite individual to reconcile and forgive.
  • On fundamental human rights: The significant black community was stripped of their basic rights. They were deprived of education and healthcare facilities and even had separate hospitals and beaches. Nelson Mandela wanted the ultimate removal and work for every person’s rights.
  • In fighting poverty: Although the apartheid claimed that the main focus of this discrimination was to ensure the independent development of each community, their acts led to poverty. The black community lived a poverty-stricken life and struggled to make ends meet.
  • Building peace: Nelson Mandela’s primary fight was building and ensuring stability. He wanted to fight against indecent acts and enforce peace for a happier and equally fulfilling lifestyle.

What did Nelson Mandela struggle for?

The apartheid relayed many disastrous laws. One of these laws was dividing society into four distinct racial factions. These were the:

  • White/European – the Germanic language Afrikaans
  • Black Community
  • Colored or Multiracial
  • Asians or Indians

Nelson Mandela put his blood, sweat, and tears into fighting the apartheid and destroying the growing white supremacy in South Africa. Non-white individuals and communities were deemed second class, which meant their power and say in the government were limited.

Because the apartheid dictated where people could work, live, and travel, the laws restricted everyday things and led many to stand against it. Nelson Mandela was one of them. He struggled to diminish all such ideas and promote a peaceful lifestyle. As a result, he stood against and voiced his opinion without a speck of fear.

As a result of his struggle, he was imprisoned for 27 years and has fought for freedom ever since. Despite being imprisoned, he was seen as a source of inspiration. He left a spark that prompted people to continue their struggle for independence.

How did Nelson Mandela fight for freedom?

We have answered the question, “What did Nelson Mandela fight for?” but we have not answered how. Answering this aspect of the question is highly vital as it assisted many people in carrying on his teachings and legacy when he was imprisoned.

Mandela, at first, wanted to utilize Gandhi’s peaceful protesting ideology. However, when push came to shove, Mandela realized that some acts of violence were necessary. He didn’t aim to kill, only sending a warning. A difficult win, Mandela was able to fight for the many wrongs practiced against his people.

He put in the effort, and his unwavering will and dream to do better only grew. He wanted to disrupt the bourgeoisie and proletariat dynamic that had developed in South Africa. Different acts were implemented, and the ANC conducted campaigns to ensure Mandela heard his voice.

In the 1950s, while the elected President of ANC, Mandela launched the Defiance Campaign. This harmless campaign prompted Black South Africans to break the apartheid and enter white areas, which they were prohibited from doing in the first place. Mass mobilization became a part of this campaign, where refusal to carry passes, boycotting white businesses, and using white facilities were a form of protest.

What did Nelson Mandela do for South Africa and the world?

Nelson Mandela is a figure of wonder and hope for individuals oppressed in a community or even within their own houses. He left a mark and did beautiful things for South Africa and the world.

Mandela reconciled with the white community after his release from prison and he encouraged the Native Africans to act with kindness toward the white community. He is a symbol of humbleness, for he forgave his transgressors, practiced resilience, and prompted others to do the same.

His grit, resilience, and passion for freedom encapsulate his work as a leader, activist, and individual standing against oppression. Mandela was the only man in the history of South Africa to create and promote multiracial democracies and transform ideas. He promoted education in rural areas and founded the Nelson Mandela Institute for Rural Development and Education. He helped people look beyond their skin color and work in harmony together.

During his political career, he brought women and introduced them to the political sphere. He fought against HIV/AIDS, ensuring many campaigns taking place to tackle this illness. He was a figure who fought till his dying breath and finally got the result he wanted. However, the fight for equality and against racial discrimination is still going on, and with Nelson’s ideology in place, one might be able to counter it.


The life of Nelson Mandela is a source of inspiration for any struggling individual. He fought to work for the betterment of society and ensure that no individual was left behind. We are aware of Nelson Mandela’s goals and life; we have even learned about his fight for freedom and equality. But another question that should be posed and researched is, “Is his work done?”

Mandela passed away at the age of 95 in December 2013. However, his legacy is alive and continues to inspire individuals. His work is incomplete; however, if one keeps his ideologies in mind, there is no stopping them from achieving what Nelson Rohilahla Mandela fought for.