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ON THIS DAY

On July 18, 1918 Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Mvezo, South Africa. In primary school in Qunu his teacher gave him the name Nelson in accordance with the custom of giving all school children “Christian” names. On July 18, 2015 we remember Nelson Mandela as one of the greatest statesmen of the ages.

Nelson Mandela was a well-known civil rights activist who began his active involvement in the anti-apartheid movement as a young man in South Africa. In 1942 he joined the African National Congress when for two decades he campaigned against the South African government and its racist policies. Mandela led the end to apartheid, freeing his country from racial division, and became known as a worldwide advocate for human rights. His peaceful protests against an oppressive regime in a racially divided South Africa landed him in prison for almost three decades, but he always remained an icon of peace and social justice for his nation. International pressure resulted in his final release from Victor Verster Prison in 1990.

Mandela appeared at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in June, 1990, only four months after his release from prison. Over 70,000 came to the Coliseum to hear the anti-apartheid leader speak on the plight of South Africa’s black majority, after having attended a midday ceremony that same day at Los Angeles City Hall. Mandela’s Coliseum rally was a key part of his first visit to the United States and was noted worldwide in newspapers, television and radio broadcasts.

Working with President F.W. de Klerk of South Africa, they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their efforts in ending the apartheid system. In 1994 Mandela succeeded President Klerk as South Africa’s first black president. After a unanimous decision by the UN General Assembly, his 2009 birthday was declared as “Nelson Mandela International Day” in recognition of his work towards global peace and to celebrate the legacy of his leadership. This honor was inspired by his statement a year earlier that the next generations take on the leadership for addressing the world’s social injustices: “it is in your hands now.”

In February 2013, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission approved a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas to induct Nobel laureate and former South African President Nelson Mandela to the Coliseum’s Court of Honor. On May 14, 2014 President Mandela was posthumously presented with a plaque that is now permanently installed among the plaques of President John F. Kennedy, Pope John Paul II and the Reverend Billy Graham. The Court of Honor is located in the Coliseum’s columned peristyle and has honored persons and events of historical significance, athletes and Los Angeles leaders.

On December 5, 2013 Mr. Mandela died at his home in Johannesburg, South Africa at the age of 95.