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Nelson Mandela Day 2020: South Africa’s first black president, Nobel Prize winner and anti-Apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela’s birth anniversary, on 18 July, is observed as Nelson Mandela International Day across the world. Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) had dedicated his life fighting for human rights and he believed that everyone has the potential to make a difference in their communities for the world to be a better place. Mandela Day is an occasion for all to take action and inspire change

Here are 10 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about Nelson Mandela:

  • Mandela’s given name was Rolihlahla, which his schoolteachers were unable to pronounce. One of them started calling him Nelson after British admiral Horatio Nelson, and the name obviously stuck. Rolihlahla, by the way, means “pulling the branch of a tree
  • He began his long road to a college degree at the University College of Fort Hare in 1931. He was expelled for participating in a protest against the university’s policies. Mandela eventually received his law degree from the University of South Africa in 1989, during the last months of his imprisonment. He also received honorary degrees from more than 50 universities.
  • He had a part in Spike Lee’s 1992 biopic “Malcolm X.” At the very end of the movie, he plays a teacher reciting Malcolm X’s famous speech to a room full of Soweto school kids. But the pacifist Mandela wouldn’t say “by any means necessary.” So Lee cut back to footage of Malcolm X to close out the film.
  • He, along with fellow ANC member Oliver Tambo, established South Africa’s first black law practice in 1952. His practice primarily worked in challenging apartheid laws, including South Africa’s “pass laws,” which required non-white citizens to carry documents authorising their presence in “restricted” areas.
  • He married a First Lady- Before tying the knot with Mandela on his 80th birthday, Graça Machel was married to Mozambique President Samora Machel. Her marriage to Mandela after her husband’s death means she has been the first lady of two nations.
  • He traveled under an alias- In 1962, he took on the alias David Motsamayi and secretly left South Africa for other parts of Africa and England to rally support for the liberation movement and the African National Congress (ANC); he received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia.

Zindziswa Mandela, South African Anti-Apartheid Activist and daughter of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, dies at 59

  • He was a master of disguise – Forced to go underground to evade the police, Mandela disguised himself as a chauffeur, a chef and a garden boy. “I would wear the blue overalls of the fieldworker and often wore round, rimless glasses known as Mazzawati tea glasses. I had a car and I wore a chauffeur’s cap with my overalls. The pose of chauffeur was convenient because I could travel under the pretext of driving my master’s car,” he wrote in his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom.
  • Mandela earned a bachelor’s degree while still in prison – Before Mandela was imprisoned, he had begun to study law at the University of Witwatersrand through correspondence. Mandela enrolled in the University of London’s correspondence program and received a Bachelor of Law degree, all while he was still in prison
  • Mandela remained on the US terrorist watch list until 2008- The US government placed the African National Congress on the list in the 1980s, when the organisation was firmly committed to armed resistance to apartheid. In 2008, after Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize the US removed ANC members from the terrorist list.
  • Nelson Mandela received many honours.- He received more than 695 awards, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. More than 25 schools, universities and educational institutions have been named after Nelson Mandela. At least 19 scholarships and foundations bear his name. He was awarded 115 honorary degrees and more than 95 sculptures, statues, or pieces of art have been made of him or dedicated to him.