After United Nations’ official declaration in November, 2009, Mandela day is celebrated on July 18- marking the birth anniversary of first elected President of free South Africa and a human rights lawyer, Nelson Mandela. As an international peacemaker, he fought for social justice for 67 years.
Here are five lesser known facts about him:
- Mandela’s birth name was Rolihlahla. In his Xhosa tribe, the name means a troublemaker. The name “Nelson” was given to him by his teacher on his first day of elementary school in 1920s when African children were given English names so colonial masters could pronounce them easily.
- When Mandela was eluding authorities during his fight against apartheid, he disguised himself in various ways, including as a chauffeur. The press nicknamed him “the Black Pimpernel” because of his police evasion tactics. “I became a creature of the night. I would keep to my hideout during the day, and would emerge to do my work when it became dark,” he says in his biography, “Long Walk to Freedom.”
- Besides politics, Mandela’s other passion was boxing. “I did not like the violence of boxing. I was more interested in the science of it – how you move your body to protect yourself, how you use a plan to attack and retreat, and how you pace yourself through a fight,” he says in his biography.
- He studied law at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and opened the nation’s first Black law firm in the city in 1952.
- Mandela wasn’t removed from the US terror watch list until 2008 – at the age of 89. He and other members of the African National Congress were placed on it because of their militant fight against apartheid.