For 27 years, while Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner, his guards and captors tried to break him, and the South African government itself tried to wipe his memory from the consciousness of its citizens. It didn’t work. In many ways, it strengthened Madiba’s resolve. In his memoir, Long Walk To Freedom, Mandela described how “during those long and lonely years [he realized that] a man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me.”
Twenty-six years ago today, his patience and emotional strength persevered, and Mandela finally got that freedom back. After worldwide protests; pressure from other governments; and a new president, FW De Klerk, motivated to end the era of apartheid, he finally walked out of prison a free man.
That moment—Mandela’s walk to freedom—is one of the most iconic of the 20th century. The powerful video above is SABC’s original broadcast on public television.