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Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in the village of Mvezo, located in Umtata district of Transkei, South Africa. Nelson’s father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was a Mvezo chief, and while Mandela descended from the local Thembu tribe’s royal family, he was not part of the line that put him in succession for the throne. At the time of his birth, Nelson was given the name Rolihlahla, which translates roughly to “troublemaker”—a fitting tag given the life the anti-apartheid crusader would go on to lead.

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While Nelson Mandela was born in Transkei, he began studying in 1939 at the University of Fort Hare, located in Alice, Eastern Cape. He didn’t initially earn a degree there, however, and it wasn’t until 1942 that he earned his bachelor’s degree via correspondence courses through the University of South Africa. By this time, Mandela had begun working as a clerk in a law firm, and he eventually received his law degree through the University of Witwatersrand. He’d also started attending meetings of the African National Congress (ANC), and in 1951, he was elected president of the party’s Youth League.

After Transkei, Nelson Mandela’s birthplace, the location that factors most significantly into his story is Robben Island. It was there that Nelson Mandela served 18 of his 27 years in prison after being convicted of plotting to sabotage the South African government. Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in 1964, and while he was offered early release in 1985, he refused South African President PW Botha’s condition that he renounce violence.

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Nelson Mandela eventually gained his freedom in February of 1990, after the government lifted its ban on the ANC. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, became president in 1994, and stepped down from public office in 1999, when he established the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The “father of the nation” spent subsequent years fighting for various causes, despite diminishing health. In December 2012, months after celebrating his 94th birthday, he spent several weeks in the hospital, and in June he was hospitalized once more, this time for a lung infection.