African Biography, 1999:
“You had no doubt when you were with [Nelson Mandela] that he had what we call in our language 'shadow'—substance, presence. He was regal.”—Desmond Tutu
A herd boy from an isolated mountainous area who did not wear shoes until age 16, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela rose against overwhelming odds to be president of the richest, most culturally diverse country in Africa. He endured more than 27 years in jail for trying to overthrow a white police state, becoming the world's most famous political prisoner. He led voteless black South Africans from the racist apartheid period into a democratic era in 1994. (Apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning apartness or separateness. It is …show more content…
Mandela's father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, gave him the first name Rolihlahla, and he got his last name from his grandfather Mandela. As a show of respect, he is often called Madiba, his clan name. The name Rolihlahla means literally in Xhosa "pulling the branch of a tree." But Mandela said its informal meaning is more accurate: "troublemaker." On his first day in school, his British-trained African teacher gave each student an English name. Mandela was named Nelson. "Why she bestowed this particular name upon me I have no idea," Mandela wrote later. "Perhaps it had something to do with the great British sea captain Lord Nelson [1758-1805], but that would be only a guess."
Mandela's father was a gifted orator, custodian of Xhosa history, and a tribal priest. He could not read or write, but he placed great emphasis on education for young Mandela. Mandela's father had four wives who lived at homesteads spaced miles apart. His wives had 13 children--nine girls and four boys--among them. Mandela was