Nelson Mandela Dies at 95
Civil rights icon Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95. The former South African president passed away on Thursday (5 December).
Born in 1918, Rolihlahla Mandela grew up in the tiny village of Mvezo, where his father ruled as chief. Following his father's death, he became the first person in his family to be sent to school, where he was named Nelson by a teacher.
He attended Fort Hare University, but was thrown out for opposing the institution's policies, and moved to Johannesburg, where he became interested in politics. Following the 1948 election victory of the Afrikaner-dominated National Party, who supported the apartheid policy of racial segregation, Mandela became a leader of the African National Congress (ANC), which led a sabotage campaign against the government in a bid to bring an end to apartheid rule.
He was arrested in 1961 and sentenced to 27 years in prison for his for his anti-authority stance.
He served 18 years behind bars, the majority of which he spent on Robben Island, where he studied law and earned his degree. He was supported by a growing movement calling for his release and in 1998, the likes of Sting and Peter Gabriel performed at a 70th Birthday Tribute concert in London in support of the cause.
He was finally freed from Victor Verster Prison on 11 February, 1990 and upon his release he promised to bring the country together through peace and democracy in a speech which was broadcast around the world.
Taking up overall leadership of the ANC in 1991, he successfully led the party through negotiations to allow South Africa's first multi-racial elections, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Both black and white South Africans went to the polls in 1994, and Mandela was elected the country's first black president, as well as the oldest, aged 75.
He is celebrated for helping heal racial tension in the country, as well as tackling child poverty, overhauling healthcare, improving education and introducing a raft of social reforms.
Following his retirement from office in 1999, he became a global human rights activist, establishing the Nelson Mandela Foundation and continuing a battle against the AIDS epidemic and child poverty in developing countries.
Mandela's later years were blighted by ill health, and he retired from public life in 2004.
Married three times, he wed his third wife, Graca Machel, at the age of 80. He fathered six children and has 20 grandchildren.
Mandela's birthday, 18 July, is designated as Mandela Day, a yearly international celebration of his legacy.
Shortly after news of Mandela's death broke, President Obama held a press conference at the White House to deliver a touching tribute, stating, "He achieved more than could be expected of any man and today he has gone home."
He added, "We have lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth. He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages."
British actor Idris Elba, who portrays Mandela in new movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom offered up a statement after hearing the sad news during the London premiere after party. It reads: "What an honour it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."
Meanwhile, South African actress Charlize Theron became one of the first celebrities to remember the legendary activist online, tweeting, "My thoughts and love go out to the Mandela family. Rest in Peace Madiba. You will be missed, but your impact on this world will live forever".
Ghost star Goldberg added, "I want 2give the world a hug I was told Mandeba just passed. Nelson Mandela R.I.P. Time for a well earned sleep.Condolences to his family", while Samuel L. Jackson posted, "Never met a better person in my life than Nelson Mandela. My sympathy to his family & his country".
William Shatner, John Legend, Fergie, former boxer Mike Tyson, Bette Midler, Kelly Osbourne, filmmaker Michael Moore, Olivia Wilde, Rihanna, LL Cool J, Russell Simmons, Gabrielle Union, Gene Simmons, former Spice Girls star Mel C, Ricky Martin, Jermaine Jackson, Channing Tatum and Tony Bennett were also among the celebrities who flooded Twitter with tributes to Mandela on Thursday.
And sports legend Muhammad Ali released a statement which reads: "I am deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Mandela. His was a life filled with purpose and hope; hope for himself, his country and the world."