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19 Astonishing Facts about Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was an enigma. Even in death, he still continues to astonish millions in the world. Admired for his courage and tenacious fight against Apartheid, Nelson Mandela’s story has been profiled in books and movies. Still we can’t get enough of South Africa‘s greatest hero, and new facts continue to pop up about him. It makes us wonder, how well do you know Nelson Mandela? Here are a few astonishing facts to make you ask that question again.

  1. His birth name means “trouble maker” – Mandela’s birth name, Rolihlahla means trouble maker. This makes a lot of sense because Nelson Mandela caused a lot of stir in the fight for freedom. This made him spend 27 years in prison, although he still managed to continue the fight even from prison.
  2. He was on the US Terror Watch list – Mandela and a couple of members of African National Congress remained on the US Terror Watch list till 2008 when they were removed. They were placed on the list because of their fight against apartheid.
  3. He has a wood pecker named after him – in 2012, scientists named a prehistoric woodpecker after him. Australopicus nelsonmandelai. Neat.
  4. He has an atomic particle named after him – in 1973, scientists at the Leeds University named a nuclear particle after him. The Mandela particle. How cool is that?
  5. His favorite dish is tripe – you heard right, tripe. Of all the cuts of meat in the world. We still love him anyways.
  6. He was expelled from college – Mandela was expelled from Fort Hare Missionary College for organizing a strike against the white supremacy in the college.
  7. He remarried at 80 years of age – in 1998, Mandela married Graça Machel, a widow of a former Mozambique president. He was eighty years old at the moment.
  8. His only son died of AIDS – Makgatho Mandela died in 2005 as a result of a complication of AIDS. During his announcement of his son’s death, Mandela encouraged more publicity on HIV/AIDS to reduce stigmatization, superstition and fear.
  9. He has his own global day of recognition – in 2009, just four years before his death, the United Nations declared July 18th Nelson Mandela Day to honor his efforts and promote community service.
  10. He was a master of disguise – Nelson Mandela was good at disguising himself to evade arrest. He was nicknamed the Black Pimpernel because of this skill.
  11. He was arrested as a chauffeur – in 1962, Nelson Mandela was finally arrested in a chauffeur’s outfit. He was driving with his fellow activist, Cecil Williams. Even before the arrest, he knew his life on the run was about to end.
  12. He wasn’t always a troublemaker – Nelson Mandela started off as a pacifist. However, in the sixties, he took up arms and advocated a sabotage campaign against the government. In 1961, he started the MK, which was a militant division of the African National Congress.
  13. His favorite sport is boxing – apart from politics, Mandela was quite passionate about boxing. In his biography, he stated he wasn’t interested in the violence of the sport but in the science behind the quick body movements.
  14. He created trouble even while in prison – Nelson Mandela orchestrated food strikes till the living conditions in prison were improved. Apart from food strikes, He was able to communicate secretly with the South African President who would later release him from life imprisonment.
  15. He organized an efficient communication system while in prison – when he was incarcerated in Robben Island, Mandela and other prisoners communicated by leaving notes in unexpected places. This method helped them in organizing strikes to improve their living conditions.
  16. He declined an exoneration from prison – in 1985, Mandela was offered release from prison on the condition that he renounces armed struggle. He refused.
  17. He has a cameo in Malcolm X – in the cameo, he recited one of Malcolm X’s speeches but refused to say the last part of the speech, “by any means necessary. “
  18. He probably has more awards than you think – Mandela has over 250 awards, including honorary degrees from more than 50 universities world wide.
  19. He made Robben Island a tourist destination – thanks to Mandela, Robben Island has become a favorite tourist destination in South Africa. Mandela spent 18 out of his 27 years of imprisonment on Robben Island. The conditions in the prison were poor but his arrival to the prison saw to the improvement of the conditions.

There are still a lot of things we probably don’t know about this great hero, but these 19 astonishing facts listed are definitely eye opening. You can try quizzing your friends with these facts and see what their reactions could be!