25 Surprising Facts About Nelson Mandela’s Legacy

Posted by , Updated on June 19, 2024

Although western media always painted him as a hero, Nelson always resisted his public image and insisted that he was “an ordinary man who had become leader because of extraordinary circumstances”. Granted, not all of the things on this list are upstanding, and like all of us he had his share of faults, but by the end you’ll find out 25 things you didn’t know about Nelson Mandela and his enduring legacy.



His parents didn't name him Nelson. This name was randomly given to him by a teacher at school.

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He grew up in a tribal village and was the first in his family to attend college

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He studied to be a lawyer and ended up as a high ranking member of the African National Congress, a group resisting apartheid.


Contrary to popular belief, he was not a pacifist. Although initially he opposed violence he eventually deemed it necessary but he never condoned violence towards civilians.

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He even received guerilla training in Morroco and Ethiopia


He was married three times, the last time when he was 80 years old

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His second wife was name Winnie, and she was crazy. She got arrested for torturing and murdering several people while Nelson was in prison.

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You probably already know this but he was in prison for 27 years because of anti government activity

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He rejected numerous conditional offers of release


He loved boxing

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Because the African National Congress was declared a terrorist group by South Africa both the US and UK ended up putting Nelson on their terrorist watch lists

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The US didn't take him off until 2008

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Not surprisingly the US, UK, and France all vetoed sanctions against South Africa during the brutally racist apartheid regime because they were trade partners


Back to Nelson, he had a lot of personal vices he was known for. One of the biggest included womanizing

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He knew it too. Although western media always painted him as a hero he always insisted that he was "an ordinary man who had become leader because of extraordinary circumstances"

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After being released from prison he became the first president of post apartheid South Africa

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He was friends with Gaddafi until his death. Although this sounds like lunacy in other parts of the world, Gaddafi was one of the few to support the ANC while the rest of the world was busy protecting their trade channels.


He was also a long time admirer of Fidel Castro who he met after his release from prison

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At some point he made time for a cameo in the 1992 film Malcolm X

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He also managed to meet his long time favorite band, the Spice Girls

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In 1993, along with the last apartheid president of South Africa, F. W. de Klerk, he accepted the nobel peace price in Norway

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He possibly recieved more high profile awards than anybody in history with at least 695.

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Highlights include 50 honorary degrees, the first person in history to be name an honorary citizen of Canada, and the last person to receive the Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union

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He also had a nuclear particle, a prehistoric woodpecker, and an orchid name after him

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In 2009 the United Nations declared that Nelson Mandela International Day would be held every year on his birthday, July 18th.

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