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Long Walk to Freedom #1-2

Long Walk to Freedom

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Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country.

Since his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela has been at the center of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world. As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule. He is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality.

The foster son of a Thembu chief, Mandela was raised in the traditional, tribal culture of his ancestors, but at an early age learned the modern, inescapable reality of what came to be called apartheid, one of the most powerful and effective systems of oppression ever conceived. In classically elegant and engrossing prose, he tells of his early years as an impoverished student and law clerk in a Jewish firm in Johannesburg, of his slow political awakening, and of his pivotal role in the rebirth of a stagnant ANC and the formation of its Youth League in the 1950s.

He describes the struggle to reconcile his political activity with his devotion to his family, the anguished breakup of his first marriage, and the painful separations from his children. He brings vividly to life the escalating political warfare in the fifties between the ANC and the government, culminating in his dramatic escapades as an underground leader and the notorious Rivonia Trial of 1964, at which he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Herecounts the surprisingly eventful twenty-seven years in prison and the complex, delicate negotiations that led both to his freedom and to the beginning of the end of apartheid. Finally he provides the ultimate inside account.

656 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1994

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About the author

Nelson Mandela

254 books1,892 followers
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a former President of South Africa, the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election, who held office from 1994–99.

Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of the African National Congress's armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe. The South African courts convicted him on charges of sabotage, as well as other crimes committed while he led the movement against apartheid. In accordance with his conviction, Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island.

In South Africa he is often known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela's clan. The title has come to be synonymous with Nelson Mandela.

Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela supported reconciliation and negotiation, and helped lead the transition towards multi-racial democracy in South Africa. Since the end of apartheid, many have frequently praised Mandela, including former opponents. Mandela has received more than one hundred awards over four decades, most notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.


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Profile Image for Tharindu Dissanayake.
283 reviews505 followers
July 24, 2021
"Man's goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished."

I'm not one for writing long reviews: I simply lack the patience, and usually end-up writing a concise review before jumping to the next book. However, every now and then, when I do come across something special, I find it inexcusable to move away hastily, before properly conveying my acclamation. 'A Long Walk To Freedom', it turns out, is very, very special. If I used all my highlights, the quotes alone could've made a lengthy review. Without any doubt, this is the best, and most impactful book I've read this year so far.

"Nurture, rather than nature, is the primary molder of personality."

"It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another."

"I wondered—not for the first time—whether one was ever justified in neglecting the welfare of one’s own family in order to fight for the welfare of others. Can there be anything more important than looking after one’s aging mother? Is politics merely a pretext for shirking one’s responsibilities, an excuse for not being able to provide in the way one wanted?"

Nelson Mandela is a person who needs no introduction. Aside from being one of the main political leaders who guided South Africa away from Apartheid, he was a man of morals, of vision, and above all, someone capable of seeing and understanding all human beings as equals. Even with all that making his life story a worthy read, it is reasonable for a reader to be hesitant in selecting between one of the other biographies of him and this autobiography. After all, more often than not, autobiographies tend to be subjective, somewhat distorted by the narrator's personal opinions. Don't let that be the reason why you stay away from this masterpiece. 'A Long Walk To Freedom', in my opinion, is as objective as it could get, without any of the author's personal views altering the reality of the events. And that is saying a lot, considering he spent almost three decades in prison, while his family was facing a continuous struggle, under a government that depended on racial discrimination.

"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 was seven years old, and on the day before I was to begin, my father took me aside and told me that I must be dressed properly for school. Until that time, I, like all the other boys in Qunu, had worn only a blanket, which was wrapped around one shoulder and pinned at the waist. My father took a pair of his trousers and cut them at the knee. He told me to put them on, which I did, and they were roughly the correct length, although the waist was far too large. My father then took a piece of string and cinched the trousers at the waist. I must have been a comical sight, but I have never owned a suit I was prouder to wear than my father’s cut-off pants."

Journey starts with Mandela's family background, and early childhood memories. These early parts are relatively uneventful but provides a good understanding of the average African's aspects of life. Then we move on to his education, where he dives deeper to explain the education system at that time, and the limited facilities available to a student. Despite encountering numerous difficulties, he does not dawdle around those limitations, as, at the time, he had assumed those to be the accepted conditions of life for an African child. His political life only starts when he moves to Johannesburg, where he starts working while pursuing his higher education.

"I have always thought a man should own a house near the place he was born, where he might find a restfulness that eludes him elsewhere."

"In love, unlike politics, caution is not usually a virtue."

"After one has been in prison, it is the small things that one appreciates: being able to take a walk whenever one wants, going into a shop and buying a newspaper, speaking or choosing to remain silent. The simple act of being able to control one’s person."

The next few parts sets the overall direction of his life, where he joins politics, meets like-minded individuals, and becomes more and more active in the political arena. Usually, I prefer to stay away from books on politics, but the this book managed to keep me immersed even across completely political chapters. The logical, yet empathetic narrative kept me engaged, and I did not feel like skipping a single part. Again, I think this is due to the undistorted representation of events. Had the writing been influenced by any anger, it would have felt like a long criticism. The objective nature of the narrative completely shifts the book away from being a rant, to what feels like a great analysis. But what came after these political movement chapters were the most interesting one's for me, which were about his prison life. In these parts, the focus rapidly moves away from the external factors, and to the development of internal character of Mandela, where he spends most of his time contemplating a methodology for reaching a long-lasting peace.

"At pollsmoor I first understood the truth of Oscar Wilde's haunting line about the tent of blue that prisoners call the sky."

"To a narrow-thinking person, it is hard to explain that to be 'educated' does not only mean being literate and having a B.A., and that an illiterate man can be a far more 'educated' voter than someone with an advanced degree."

"While Mr. Sidelsky imparted his views of the law, he warned me against politics. Politics, he said, brings out the worst in men. It was the source of trouble and corruption, and should be avoided at all costs."

I believe, Mandela's character will teach most readers about humility and humbleness on a level that is only paralleled by characters like Lincoln, Gandhi, and MLK Jr. Though his part in uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) does deviate significantly from aforementioned characters, the underlying system of belief is more or less identical. Even after all he had gone through, Mandela's not being overly critical towards the opposition is commendable. He always addresses the issues of the system, not the individuals who are forced to act.

"The hurly-burly of city life has a way of erasing the past."

"There is little favorable to be said about poverty, but it was often an incubator of true friendship. Many people will appear to befriend you when you are wealthy, but precious few will do the same when you are poor. If wealth is a magnet, poverty is a kind of repellent. Yet, poverty often brings out the true generosity in others."

I believe this book should be read by every person, no matter where your interests lie. But the catch is, you'll have to be patient with this, and ready to invest the time it requires to make it to the end. Even if you find the middle parts too political, or too slow, don't give up. Unlike with fiction, don't be in a hurry to get to the end. It gets better, and better, and better, all the way to the end. You'll be glad you've done so, for, it is the journey not the destination that matters with this one, literally. The phenomenal reading experience, and the life experiences the book offers are well worth the long time it warrants.

"A mother’s death causes a man to look back on and evaluate his own life. Her difficulties, her poverty, made me question once again whether I had taken the right path. That was always the conundrum: Had I made the right choice in putting the people’s welfare even before that of my own family?"

"To humiliate another person is to make him suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate."

"The passing of the regent removed from the scene an enlightened and tolerant man who achieved the goal that marks the reign of all great leaders: he kept his people united. Liberals and conservatives, traditionalists and reformers, white-collar officials and blue-collar miners, all remained loyal to him, not because they always agreed with him, but because the regent listened to and respected all different opinions."

After a really, really long walk (took me 30+ hours to finish this), I'm glad to say, this book checked all the boxes for me, not just a few, all the way from writing style to the contents. I was never a fervent follower of politics, or social movements, but, once I started re-living the author's experiences with this book, I kept going for hours each time. I'm still surprised how I made it to the end without skipping a single sentence. A Long Walk to freedom has indeed been a long journey, but it has easily made it to my all-time-favorites, and all-must-read shelves. Irrespective of one's reading choices, this is a book one must read in his life time, and I urge every single one of your to add this to your reading list.

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

The air of one's home always smells sweet after one has been away.
Profile Image for Rowena.
500 reviews2,469 followers
December 24, 2013
“As I finally walked through those gates to enter a car on the other side, I felt- even at the age of seventy-one- that my life was beginning anew. My ten thousand days of imprisonment were over.” - Nelson Mandela, A Long Walk to Freedom

2013, my year of reading biographies, started off with Dr. King’s and ended with reading Nelson Mandela’s. A perfect end to the year.

Apartheid is something that hit very close to home to me, being a member of the same Bantu people that the racist Afrikaner government believed were on the same level as animals. Mandela has always been a hero in my family and I grew up hearing about his life and his struggles to gain freedom for black South Africans. I knew about Apartheid before I knew about the American civil rights movement.

This autobiography is very comprehensive in scope, covering Mandela’s childhood, his adulthood, his transformation into a freedom fighter, and his time spent in jail, and finally his inauguration as South Africa’s first black president.The history of his African National Congress party was intriguing,and even more gripping were the stories of Mandela's days as the "Black Pimpernel" travelling all around Africa and Europe.

This was not an easy read. Mandela made so many sacrifices, as did his wife and children. It really hurt reading about how he, his wife and children were treated, and how it took so long for the world to wake up and send proper help.

“I was made, by the law, a criminal, not because of what I had done, but because of what I stood for, because of what I thought, because of my conscience.”

A couple of things really stood out to me. The first was how colonized our thinking is. Black Africans have been told they are inferior and even now they often display that inferiority complex. The Afrikaners were fed the same lies and believed that blacks were inferior before witnessing for themselves that that wasn't true (Boer party propaganda). The second thing that stood out was how this book restored my faith in mankind at times. It was fascinating to read about the humanity that arose in the unlikeliest people.

Mandela was humble and acknowledged all those involved in the freedom struggle. About his inauguration, he said, “I felt that day, as I have on so many other days, that I was simply the sum of all those African patriots who have gone before me. That long and noble line ended and now began again with me. I was pained that I was not able to thank them and that they were not able to see what their sacrifices had wrought.”

After reading this book, my respect for Mandela grew even more. I loved his spirit; he refused to be broken, he refused to become bitter and he somehow kept his wit and his sense of humour. He was honest about what he learned, about his own prejudices and mistakes.

The first time I visited South Africa was in 1995, a year after the democratic elections that officially ended Apartheid. The thought crossed my mind that a few years prior my family and I would not have been able to make that trip in such comfort and safety. Thank you, Madiba for making this happen.

To quote my GR friend Leola, “I feel like the world could never be prepared enough to say goodbye to Nelson Mandela.”
Profile Image for Warwick.
824 reviews14.5k followers
December 6, 2013
At over 700 pages, Nelson Mandela's autobiography might look like a serious commitment. Actually though, it doesn't feel like a heavy book at all. Like the thinking which informs it, the writing is clear, measured and straightforward, albeit scattered with bits of Harvard English that are presumably down to Mandela's (uncredited) American ghostwriter, Richard Stengel.

I sped through it in under a week, thanks mainly to a couple of long train journeys. I'm left with a much more nuanced view of Mandela and what he stood for, and a much clearer idea of the man behind the symbol.

What I found particularly valuable were the insights into how deeply apartheid ingrained racism not just on to the white minority, but on to the attitudes and assumptions throughout the whole of South African society. Mandela at one point mentions being struck by the sight of a young beggar-girl by the side of the road in a township, and reacting completely differently because she was white:

While I did not normally give to African beggars, I felt the urge to give this woman money. In that moment I realized the tricks that apartheid plays on one, for the everyday travails that afflict Africans are accepted as a matter of course, while my heart immediately went out to this bedraggled white woman. In South Africa, to be poor and black was normal, to be poor and white was a tragedy.

A few years and several hundred pages later, he has the corollary experience while taking a clandestine flight in Ethiopia.

As I was boarding the plane I saw that the pilot was black. I had never seen a black pilot before, and the instant I did I had to quell my panic. How could a black man fly a plane? But a moment later I caught myself: I had fallen into the apartheid mind-set, thinking Africans were inferior and that flying was a white man's job.

If the leaders of the resistance movement can react like this – How could a black man fly a plane? – the reactions of less committed or thoughtful South Africans can readily be imagined, and you begin to get a sense of the sheer scale of the problem which faced the ANC and other activists. A problem which has not entirely gone away.

These are the well-chosen memories of someone interested in their own thoughts and responses, and who had the time – so much of it – to examine his life and sift out the experiences that counted. Everywhere in the book, there is this sense of a man who has thought long and hard about the choices he made, and can explain them simply and directly.

Not all of them are necessarily easy to sympathise with, or at least they perhaps shouldn't be. Let's be clear: Mandela is not Ghandi. We should remember (and he is admirably open about it) that Amnesty International always declined to work on Mandela's behalf because he refused to renounce violence as a valid tool in the fight against apartheid. He was the first head of the ANC's militant wing, the MK, and involved in paramilitary training; he drew up plans for action that ran from sabotage to guerrilla warfare. At one point, he describes his 1950s self as ‘a young man who attempted to make up for his ignorance with militancy’ – but actually, that militancy never goes away, it just becomes more grounded in political and moral justifications. Mandela's ethical sensibility is always there; but ethics are not paramount.

For me, non-violence was not a moral principle but a strategy; there is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon.

Effective weapons were considered to include explosives, as demonstrated for example in the Church Street bombing of 1983 which killed 19 people and wounded over 200, including many civilians. Mandela mentions it in passing, and has the following to say.

The killing of civilians was a tragic accident, and I felt a profound horror at the death toll. But disturbed as I was by these casualties, I knew that such accidents were the inevitable consequence of the decision to embark on a military struggle. Human fallibility is always a part of war, and the price of it is always high. It was precisely because we knew that such incidents would occur that our decision to take up arms had been so grave and reluctant. But as Oliver said at the time of the bombing, the armed struggle was imposed upon us by the violence of the apartheid regime.

We are on dangerous ground here. Can we put a number on how many civilian deaths are considered a reasonable price to pay for ending apartheid? At the same time, though, who on earth am I to question his decisions and moral code – I who have never experienced a fraction of the abuse and discrimination which was his daily life, and who am never likely to have to make the impossible choices that were so common under apartheid?

All I can say is Mandela doesn't shy away from it. I may not always be comfortable about it, but I felt a deep respect for his willingness to stand behind his actions and explain them as best he can.

Ultimately, Mandela was saved from being a truly ambiguous figure by the simple fact that he was arrested and imprisoned before he could be directly involved in any violence himself; for him, it's all theoretical, and, locked away behind bars, he could be viewed more simply as an innocent martyr to a just cause. And indeed, it's in his response to the years of incarceration that the greatness of Mandela's character comes through. Twenty-seven years in jail would be enough to make any man bitter; but he is the opposite of bitter. Time and again he shows himself willing to listen to and work with those who might easily be called his enemies – from dissenting black activists, through ambivalent prison warders, up to the president of South Africa.

It's his astonishing ability to do without bitterness – essentially, his capacity for forgiveness – which really makes Mandela an inspiration. Perhaps it's my naïveté, but I can't help concluding that, when international pressure got too much for South Africa's government, it was Mandela's openness in negotiations which forged the breakthrough and not the MK's sporadic attempts to meet violence with violence. That's certainly what I'll take away from this excellent and fascinating memoir: that, and a delight in his unshakable belief that no matter how degrading the conditions, or how long the imprisonment, no one had the power to damage who he was on the inside:

Prison and the authorities conspire to rob each man of his dignity. In and of itself, that assured that I would survive, for any man or institution that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose because I will not part with it at any price or under any pressure.
Profile Image for Swrp.
665 reviews
December 13, 2021
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. ~ Nelson Mandela

Long Walk to Freedom has been such an amazing journey. Thank you, Madiba!

Nelson Mandela is indeed one of the greatest moral leaders and heroes of our time! The way and walk to Freedom is long, but Mandela did not give up... He dedicated his life for the cause. This inspiring autobiography is a must-read for all.

"A leader is like a shepherd, there are times when a leader must move out ahead of his flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people in the right way."
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
May 4, 2022
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (Long Walk to Freedom #1-2), Nelson Mandela

Long Walk to Freedom is an autobiography written by South African President Nelson Mandela, and first published in 1994 by Little Brown & Co. The book profiles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison. Under the apartheid government, Mandela was regarded as a terrorist and jailed on the infamous Robben Island. He later achieved international recognition for his leadership as president in rebuilding the country's once segregated society. The last chapters of the book describe his political ascension, and his belief that the struggle still continued against apartheid in South Africa.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «راه دشوار آزادی: خاطرات نلسون ماندلا»؛ «راه طولانی به سوی آزادی: زندگینامه نلسون ماندلا»؛ نویسنده: نلسون ماندلا؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال1995میلادی

عنوان: راه دشوار آزادی: خاطرات نلسون ماندلا؛ نویسنده: نلسون ماندلا؛ مترجم: مهوش غلامی؛ تهران، اطلاعات، سال1374، در804؛ و23ص؛ مصور، عکس، شابک9644233263؛ چاپ دوم سال1379؛ چاپ سوم سال1383؛ چاپ چهارم سال1387؛ شابک9789644233265؛ چاپ پنجم سال1390؛ چاپ ششم سال1392؛ چاپ هفتم سال1395؛ چاپ هشتم سال1397؛ موضوع یادمانها و زیستنامه ی نویسندگان افریقایی، افریقای جنوبی - سده20م

عنوان: راه طولانی به سوی آزادی: زندگینامه نلسون ماندلا؛ نویسنده: نلسون ماندلا؛ تلخیص کوکوکاچالیا و مارک سوتنر؛ مترجم سیما رفیعی؛ تهران، عطایی، سال1392؛ در168ص؛ مصور؛ شابک9789643137250؛ عنوان دیگر زندگینامه نلسون ماندلا؛

نگارنده ی کتاب «نلسون ماندلا» در روز هجدهم ماه جولای سال1918میلادی در «ترنسکی، آفریقای جنوبی» به این دنیا آمدند؛ ایشان در سال1944میلادی به «کنگره ی ملی آفریقا» پیوستند، و پس از سال1948میلادی، پیش از دستگیری در ماه اگوست سال1962میلادی، در برابر سیاستهای «آپارتاید» حزب ملی حاکم پایداری کردند؛ در ماه نوامبر سال1962میلادی، ایشان به پنج سال زندان محکوم شدند، و در سال1963میلادی در زندان «جزیره رابن» به نوشتن آغاز کردند، تا اینکه به «پرتوریا» بازگشت داده شدند، و سپس در آنجا، دوباره در دادگاه «ریونیا» محاکمه، و از سال1964میلادی تا سال1982میلادی دوباره در زندان «جزیره رابن» زندانی شدند، و سپس ایشان را به زندان «پالسمور» بردند، که در آنجا به تدریج به عنوان نماد قدرتمندی از پایداری، در برابر جنبش ضد آپارتاید، به شهرت رسید؛ «ماندلا» در طول27سال زندان، که بیشتر آن را در یک سلول در «جزیره روبن» سپری کردند، مشهورترین چهره ی مبارز علیه آپارتاید، در «آفریقای جنوبی» شدند؛ «نلسون ماندلا» یکی از راهبران بزرگوار سیاسی و مردمی دوران ما بودند؛ ایشان قهرمانی جهانی بودند، که زندگی خود را وقف مبارزه با تبعیض نژادی، در آفریقای جنوبی کرده، و به پاس آن از خود گذشتگی، جایزه ی صلح نوبل به ایشان اهدا شد، و به ریاست جمهوری کشورش رسید؛ «ماندلا» با اینکه بیست و هفت سال از بهترین سالهای عمر خویش را در پشت میله های زندان گذراندند، اما لحظه ای از پایداری و مبارزه در راه آرمان خویش دست نکشیدند، تا اینکه در سال1990میلادی، در سن هفتاد و دوسالگی، دوباره آزادی خود را به دست آوردند، و در مرکز صحنه سیاسی جهانی قرار گرفتند؛ «ماندلا» به عنوان رئیس «کنگره ملی آفریقا» و «نهضت ضد آپارتاید آفریقای جنوبی» ملت خویش را به سوی آرمان «حکومت اکثریت»، و «دولت چند نژادی» هدایت کرده، و نیروی حیاتی در مبارزه در راه «حقوق بشر»، و «برابری نژادی» بوده اند

این کتاب شرحی تکان دهنده و هیجان انگیز از زندگی ایشانست؛ «ماندلا» برای نخستین بار، از داستان زندگی خویش، از «حماسه ی مبارزه ها و شکستها»، از «امیدهای دوباره»، و از «پیروزی» سخن میگویند؛ «نلسون ماندلا»، برای میلیونها انسان در سراسر جهان، نمادی از «پیروزی امید و غرور»، بر «نومیدی و تنفر»، «پیروزی عشق و از خودگذشتگی و خویشتنداری»، بر «خصلتهای اهریمنی و انتقام جویی» مینگارند، و با خوانشگران خویش زیبا سخن میگویند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 07/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 13/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Matt.
3,730 reviews12.8k followers
March 8, 2017
As I continue the forty days of biography reading, I thought I ought to tackle some of the 'big players' in the world of politics. At a time when the world is still ill-balanced, I wanted to delve into the world of Nelson Mandela, one who sought to recalibrate a significant unbalance on the African continent over a number of decades. Having a great interest in South Africa, the backwardness of apartheid's acceptance by any governing body, and how the world handled the bloodshed under the racist regime there, I felt this would be a wonderful starting point. I have read much historical fiction about the country and the struggles, but it is high time we look to facts and figures. There will be those who oppose me reading this autobiography for propaganda reasons (and they have already reared their heads) and I welcome their sentiments, though the sub-set who are supremacists and bully views for the sake of racism belong in the weed-choked fields of knowledge from whence they came. And yes, they have come out to write to me as well!

Born in 1918 with the birth name 'Rolihlahla', Xhosa for "pulling the branch of a tree', Mandela lived his early years in a small village far from the bustling cities of Cape Town or Johannesburg. Living in the traditional way of Africans, the village shared resources and means of survival, which might have fostered his views that found him in hot water decades later. Seeing much potential in their son, Mandela's parents allowed the Church to play a strong role in his upbringing and education, which led him to find a passion for the law. Mandela explains early on in this autobiography that his desire to advocate for others became a foundation of the way he lived his life. Eventually pulled into the larger city, Mandela worked in a law firm in Johannesburg, though failed to pass some of the essential academic examinations to earn an LLB. However, Mandela found a strong desire to help his fellow African with issues that arose and worked within the limits before him to ensure that all South Africans shared the same opportunities. South Africa was in the midst of a transformation, still part of the British Commonwealth but run primarily by the Afrikaner white minority, who ruled in an off-balance manner that sought to use the minority sentiments to shape the laws for all. With the exclusion of the black African (please allow me at this time to offer apologies for anyone who takes offence to the word 'black', for I am simply using the term Mandela presented throughout, which differentiates between the white minority and the unrepresented majority) population, Mandela began to meet with other like-minded men and sought to join the political movement of the African National Congress (ANC), whose long-standing support of black equality fit nicely with the views he espoused. Mandela used this passion to fuel his mantra as he sought to push back against the views of the South African Government. Mandela did find time to marry, choosing Evelyn Nkoto Mase, who bore him his first set of children. Mandela explores the life of an anti-colonist and the role the ANC played in his early life. By this time, the South African government brought in apartheid, an approach to racial divide the country and benefit the whites. Mandela would not stand for this and spoke out whenever he could to counter the racist governmental policies. The strains between Mandela and Evelyn led to a disintegration of that marriage and Mandela was forced to come to terms with it while he wrestled for black equality. Not long single, Mandela met and married Winnie Madikizela, sure they would be together after their first date. Things ramped up and Mandela was soon persona non grata in the country, hiding from the authorities in order to protect himself. Mandela tells of his secret trips to other parts of Africa to meet with other black leaders who were also trying to toss the shackles of oppression from their peoples. And yet, the world stood by and watched as the politics of South Africa became more troublesome. The ANC ramped up its views and Mandela became a strong figurehead, eventually brought to trial for High Treason after espousing views of wanting to overthrow the government. Mandela makes clear that there was no way to follow a peaceful solution against the Government, though he may have wanted to parallel Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. However, targeted violence would not include the regular citizen and assassination was never promoted or condoned. Sentenced to life in prison after the judge chose not to impose the death penalty, Mandela began his twenty-seven years behind bars on Robben Island, an isolated prison facility.

A resident of the Robben Island prison Mandela speaks frankly about his incarceration and the treatment he received. While the meals were poor and the sanitary conditions less than ideal, I expected severe beatings and horrendous treatment at the hands of guards and wardens to pepper the narrative. However, Mandela was seen as an advocate for his fellow prisoners and earned the respect of the white prison hierarchy, to the point that he was given special treatment when presenting concerns to the prison authorities. His imprisonment became a political soapbox and many people from all corners of the world came to see him and listen to his views, though nothing changed. While the outside world continued to speak out against apartheid and issued sanctions, politics within the country sought to strengthen the racially divisive movement under a number of leaders, culminating in P.W. Botha, perhaps its most ruthless Afrikaner leader. However, as Mandela presents in the latter portion of the narrative, Botha readily met with Mandela and heard his complaints. Mandela continued to espouse equality and fought against apartheid, though Botha gave only lip service to these concerns. As the world began to shift toward the end of the 1980s, South Africa's apartheid views seemed to dissipate when Botha stepped down and F.W. de Klerk became prime minister. Under de Klerk, Mandela's sentence came to an end and he was able to leave Robben Island, completing the long and sordid walk to freedom.

Mandela is able to use the last dozen or so chapters to speak of this freedom and the changes that came to pass, though there was surely many hurdles to overcome and much reconciliation that needed to take place. Mandela advocated for free and open elections, even while de Klerk sought an outright veto over any legislation for the Afrikaners. Push came to shove and the racial divide led to more murders, increased resentment, and added pressure on Mandela and the ANC to prove that they could act within political means and not turn to guns. Mandela speaks frankly, though never stops pushing for talk over bullet to solve the issue. By the time the first open national election came to pass in 1994, Mandela was able to rise to the role of President of the South African Republic, the ultimate gift after decades of oppression.

Some who saw that I was reading this jumped immediately onto Mandela's being a communist (as though that were a poisoned moniker) and a terrorist. Both of these sentiments are true in their textbook form, though the flavour in which they were presented makes them seem horrid and worthy of vilification. To those people, who prefer to talk of peaceful whites and raping blacks (I kid you not), I can only offer pity as they allow ignorance to ferment inside their minds. It also shows that they have no interest in engaging in an intellectual conversation on Mandela or the apartheid era in South Africa. Mandela's upbringing was very much one of social equality for all and his interest in Marxist views fuelled a passion to see equality for every man, woman, and child within South Africa, irregardless of the colour of their skin or background. His terrorist leanings were borne out of a need to bring about needed change. I neither condemn or condone these actions, but I do see some rationale, as Mandela spoke of wanting to emulate Gandhi's protest in India. However, while the British were a sensible people with a democratic political system that permitted all to vote, South Africa would never allow blacks to have a political voice, thereby keeping them from ever bringing about change in a parliamentary means. Mandela spoke of two Americans coming to see him in prison, pushing the idea of Martin Luther King's triumphs in America without ever needing to promote violence. Again, Mandela spoke of how the US Constitution entrenched equal rights within the document and King was only trying to promote these sentiments in the racist south. So, while he was a terrorist in the textbook sense, one might wonder if it was for a good cause. Of course, that will not quell the views of those who are cemented into a hatred that could include burning crosses or half-truths, but then again, some people's ignorance comes from indoctrination and a refusal to expand their knowledge.

Mandela's crisp delivery is refreshing, especially as he speaks to frankly about these issues. I was drawn into the chapters and found myself begging for more information, even though I was already drowning in all the narrative had to offer. Mandela does not try to make himself look like a martyr or saint, but does not shy away from the evils he felt were developing around him. His love of self, family, and the larger South African state appears throughout. While this was an autobiography, it is balanced and can be called a realistic account, though I would be remiss if I took it as gospel. Mandela pulls no punches, while remaining above the fray and not getting himself stuck in the racial mud slinging that one might expect from someone who was oppressed for so long. He could have penned a powerful piece, highly critical of the government and scathing in its presentation, but by keeping things balanced and free from poisonous rhetoric, the reader is more likely to find pieces they support. The attentive reader will learn how Mandela devised early drafts of this piece and find themselves impressed with his ability to recollect so much. Far from succinct, but laid out perfectly to see the slow development of Mandela's struggles, the reader will surely appreciate the attention to detail and powerful arguments that pepper this piece from beginning to end.

Kudos seem to be too small an honour to bestow upon you, Mr. Mandela. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece and while others may criticise me for even considering it, I am happy I took the time to learn about these struggles within South Africa.

I would encourage anyone who knows of a good book that tells the opposite side of the argument to send me a recommendation. All I ask is that it is well-sourced and a grounded piece that does not spiral into hate speech. I am eager to see apartheid and the white struggle within South Africa, should it exist.

Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:
Profile Image for Luís.
1,864 reviews523 followers
February 12, 2023
To evoke Nelson Mandela is to produce Africa in a general way so much his fight for freedom, dignity, and everything South Africa's racists have inflicted on him to break him, extinguish and stifle that Man's dream. Nelson Mandela is an icon of Africa but the most representative of this continent!
The Man has steel morale because he will imprison for twenty-seven years in the sinister prison of Robben Island, and we remember this great moment in history, 1990, when he went out with a big smile and relaxed. He greeted his compatriots, who had come to greet and cheer him. These images are transmitted by all television channels around the world and live. It was very moving!
In his novel, Nelson Mandela evokes all the stages of his life. His beginnings in politics, his fight against white racism, and the terrible system of apartheid.
He got out of prison without any grudge or resentment against whites.
He was elected president of the country for just one term. We can only admire this Great Man kneaded with great moral and human qualities.
A character who had marked the history of his country and history in general!
Profile Image for Donna Davis.
1,759 reviews237 followers
November 9, 2016
If you are not a prolific reader, the size and weight of this volume may look daunting. After reading the first two or three chapters, you will be tempted to give up. DON'T!!! It's just about to get really good.

This autobiography chronicles Mandela's life, first as the son of a tribal chief, then as an educated Black man under Apartheid--a dangerous thing to be--and then the journey, both outward and inward, from attorney to the leader of a revolution. You will read about his time on Riecher's Island, the notorious prison, and the various experiences he had in the courtroom and in captivity. He tells of the cunning ways those who were jailed for political reasons created to communicate and to an extent, continue to lead from inside prison. And he breaks up the horror with an occasional vignette of a surprisingly kindly jailor or other authority figure who does small, decent things when no one is looking.

If you are interested in the history of South Africa and the defeat of Apartheid, this is a must-read. If you ever, as I did, had a "Free Nelson Mandela" poster in your living room...read this, and celebrate.
Profile Image for Jean.
1,710 reviews742 followers
September 21, 2019
I had skipped over this book by Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) many times thinking I had read it. The other day I checked my records and was surprised to discovered I had recorded it to read but had not read it. I now have corrected that mistake.

The book is well written. It covers Nelson Mandela’s life from childhood to becoming the president of South Africa. The author also describes the history of South Africa and the various local tribes so I have a better understanding of the situation. The writing is a bit dry at times and very little personal emotion is displayed. Mandela’s high ideals and his fight for freedom comes through loud and clear in the book. The book is about the fight for civil rights. This is an excellent memoir. It held my attention throughout the book.

I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. The book is twenty-nine hours and thirty-nine minutes. Michael Boatman does a good job narrating the book. Boatman is an actor and audiobook narrator. I am glad I read this as an audiobook as I would never had been able to pronounce the African names.
Profile Image for Missy.
125 reviews
December 23, 2007
First of all let me say that Nelson Mandela is an amazing man who has been through more trials than I could ever imagine, and he faced them with such class and strength. I am glad I know more about his history and his life as a "freedom fighter," and this book gave me greater appreciation for black South Africans. However, it was a long, long, long, long walk to freedom. I guess I like books that are written in story form, which shows some lack of intelligence on my part, unfortunately. It took me about 11 months to read this book, and I would have given up, except for the fact that it would make me crazy to start a book and not finish it (especially because I wanted to learn more about apartheid).
Profile Image for leynes.
1,103 reviews2,953 followers
December 19, 2020
I finally finished Nelson Mandela's iconic autobiography Long Walk To Freedom. It is an essential text for anyone who is interested in the topics of racism and the anti-apartheid struggle, or simply in South Africa, and one of the most influential African leaders in recent history.

Unfortunately, I only read the German translation of Mandela's work, which made it a bit of a pain in the ass to read. [Seriously, if you're from Germany but understand English, I beg you to pick up the original because the German translation is shockingly bad. Mandela's writing feels clunky and inauthentic.] Therefore, it took me over a year to finally find the motivation again to pick up this book ... but when I finally did, I was more than happy and appreciative of the lessons that I took from it.

Granted, I still think that this autobiography is a good 300 pages too long and could've benefited from having a stricter editor (to keep the events described a little more sharp and cohesive, especially for readers who haven't followed Mandela's activism and political career closely), especially due to the fact that where Mandela excels at writing enthralling speeches, he fumbles in writing down his own story in a compelling way, but nonetheless, it is a remarkable historical document that will enlighten readers for many generations to come.
"I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against Black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, My Lord, if it needs to be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." –  Nelson Mandela at the conclusion of his speech during the Rivonia Treason Trial on April 20, 1964
Nowadays, the name of Nelson Mandela has become synonymous with selflessness, justice and sacrificial values. As South Africa's first democratically elected President, he will go down as one of the most influential politicians and public figures of all time. His impact on South Africa must be celebrated: the abolition of apartheid, the implementation of a democratic system, his work on Aids and poverty, and his attempt at a more just and equal society for all. So it comes as no surprise that he is often put on a pedestal and being viewed as this larger-than-life figure. Reading Long Walk To Freedom enables us to see Mandela as a man in his own right, with his own struggles, shortcomings and failures, not just his contributions and accomplishments; it shows that it took a village (or let's say, a whole country) to bring about this substantial change and shift within South African society and politics; the victory of ending apartheid belonged to every single person who has fought and stood up for it, not just one man.

Therefore, instead of summarising his life (I mean, you can google that for yourself) or "review" this autobiography as I would a regular ole novel, I thought I would focus on the five lessons that I took away from reading Long Walk To Freedom, I decided to focus on the lessons that were most surprising to me and that, in some ways, altered my view on certain topics.

1) Nonviolence only goes so far, sometimes violence is the only way.
In the 1950s, Nelson Mandela organized and led many nonviolent protest campaigns. But when 69 Black protestors were shot by white policemen in 1960 during a demonstration in Sharpeville, he realized that the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa could not be committed to nonviolence ... because nonviolence only goes so far. Shortly after the demonstration, he met with the head of the ANC and argued that their organisation needed to embrace the armed struggle in order to bring about substantial change. And it turns out he was right.
I replied that nonviolence had very much failed us, for it had in no way curbed the state's use of violence or brought about a change of heart among our oppressors.
Mandela once famously said: "The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices - submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defence of our people, our future, and our freedom." And I couldn't agree more with him. Like most of us (I assume), I agree that nonviolence is an honorable strategy and where nonviolence is possible and successful, it should always be favored. But when you are presented with a hopeless situation as in South Africa, where a majority of its people were repressed and disenfranchised, and a minority held all power and was killing people by the thousands with no regard for their life, there comes a time where a certain line is crossed, where you cannot sit around and wait for progress (as Baldwin once famously put it), where enough is simply enough, where protests, sit-ins and marches don't bring in the results, where your people are still oppressed, killed, lynched and denied basic human rights on a daily basis.

I truly admire Mandela for standing firm in his belief and approach that nonviolence cannot always be the way, especially if the oppressor you're dealing with is out to kill you and exploit you for all of eternity (if they had their way). [Btw, little "fun" fact, due to these beliefs and his previous activism, Mandela remained on the official U.S. terrorist watch list until 2008. Yep. And guess who wasn't on that list? Any of the white politicians who tried to keep apartheid in place and were responsible for the oppression and murder of millions of people.]

2) Everything is political, everyone is political. To deny and/or not act on that simple fact is a privilege that a lot of people don't have.
That's not necessarily a lesson that was entirely new for me. I've been thinking a lot about ignorance and privilege this year. However, reading about Mandela's life and how he was politicised basically the moment he was born (because as a Black South African he had no other choice, due to the oppressive and racist society he was born in) really hammered home the point that every one of us and everything we do is political. Whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not. Whether we acknowledge it or not.
An African child is born in an Africans Only hospital, taken home in an Africans Only bus, lives in an Africans Only area, and attends Africans Only schools, if he attends school at all. When he grows up, he can hold Africans Only jobs, rent a house in an Africans Only townships, ride Africans Only trains, and be stopped at any time of the day or night and be ordered to produce a pass, failing which he will be arrested and thrown in jail. His life is circumscribed by racist laws and regulations that cripple his growth, dim his potential, and stunt his life.
Mandela vividly describes that he didn't have one singular epiphany or revelation that made him want to become a rebel, rather it was this steady accumulation of all these everyday injustices that produced in him an anger that led to his desire to fight that system that imprisoned and oppressed his people. For him, there was no active choice whether or not he wanted to devote himself to the liberation of his people, it was a necessary result of his everyday life. He didn't have the privilege to simply close his eyes and pretend nothing was wrong. He had to act and stand up for his people and himself.

What I found interesting is that Mandela also describes events in his life during which he realised that he had internalised racism(s) as well. In one episode, he describes his unease at realising that the pilot of the plane he was boarding was African, – "How could a Black man fly a plane?" – and it's a revealing moment that shows that we constantly have to challenge and question norms and beliefs that we were fed during our socialisation and upbringing.

3) The Left needs to put their internal differences aside if it wants to stand a chance against rising Right-wing politics.
One of the most interesting aspects of Long Walk to Freedom was the formation of the ANC (African National Congress) and its quarrels with other parties and organisations that were also involved in the anti-apartheid struggle.
Theoretical differences between those fighting oppression are a luxury we cannot afford at this stage.
It truly reminded me of how, nowadays, Right-wing ideas and politics often benefit from the fact that different Left-wing (or Left-leaning) parties are at each other's throat instead of focusing on the actual threat. It's frustrating to see people and institutions getting so hung up on the (comparatively) small mistakes and missteps of like-minded forces, instead of trying to refute and stand up against (Far) Right ideas and implementations.

4) Maybe not all sacrifices are worth it in the end.
Once thing that I found oddly refreshing about Long Walk To Freedom is that Mandela doesn't hold back on all of the personal sacrifices that he (and his family, and his friends, and his nation) had to make during all of these years ... and how saddened (at least in some ways) he was left by all of it. Even though I, of course, knew that Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, reading about it firsthand made me truly realise that the horror of it all, not just the humiliations and frustrations of everyday prison life, also the fact that he couldn't bury his own mother ("Not being able to bury my mother added to my grief, as it would have been my duty as the eldest child and only son."), not being able to see your children growing up and therefore losing your connection to them,
"We thought we had a father, and one day he had come home. But to our disappointment, our father came home and left us alone because he had now become the father of the nation." Being the father of a nation is a great honor, but being the father of a family is a greater joy. Yet it was a joy I had felt far too little of.
and in general feeling overburdened by the weight on your shoulders as an entire nation relied on your services. Even though Mandela grants us these glimpses into his inner thoughts, one is still left wondering how big of a toll all of these sacrifices and horrible injustices took on him and his mental health. Mandela doesn't fully open up about his traumas (which is perfectly fine, he doesn't have to), but it isn't hard to imagine that the path he (had to) cho(o)se left some deep scars.

5) A system of oppression cannot be reformed; it must be abolished.
Recently, I have come more and more to the conclusion that certain institutions simply need to be defunded, disestablished and abolished. Mandela's Long Walk To Freedom, Davis' Are Prisons Obsolete? and all the discussions that I've had over the past summer, reinforced my belief that some institutions are past the point of repair. Reforming, altering and changing them won't do any good (especially not in the long run) for the marginalised people that are oppressed by them.
"Who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking in vain, patiently, moderately, and modestly at a closed and barred door? What have been the fruits of moderation? The past thirty years have seen the greatest number of laws restricting our rights and progress, until today we have reached a stage where we have almost no rights at all." — Albert Luthuli (President of the ANC)
History has taught us that we need to approach these issues, not in terms of what is possible within the framework of a given structure or system, but rather in view of what should be made possible in terms of human rights and demands. There is no use in maintaining a racist/ homophobic/ sexist/ ableist/ you-name-it status quo. We need to threaten these existing structures, as they are the root of the issue. Challenging existing power relations and paving the way for more revolutionary changes in our societies are necessary if we want to bring about lasting change and create a socially just and environmentally sustainable world. Marginalised people, especially, cannot (and should not) remain passive agents in that process, we must push for that transformation by being active and mobilising for a better way to organise our world. The fight is not finished. There's lots that remains to be done.

"I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended."
Profile Image for Raya راية.
771 reviews1,338 followers
December 7, 2017
"لقد جرّدت نفسي طول حياتي للنضال من أجل الشعب الأفريقي، لقد كافحت ضد هيمنة البيض كما كافحت ضد هيمنة السود. لقد عشت تواقًا إلى مجتمع ديمقراطي حرّ، يعيش فيه الجميع في وئام ومساواة. إنّه هدف أرجو أن أعيش له وأن أحققه. وهو الهدف الذي سأموت من أجله إن لم يكن من ذلك بدّ."

يأتون من بعيد ليحتلّوا أرض غيرهم ويسرقوا ثرواتها، ويجرّمون شعبها ويستعبدونه، ويعاملونه بقسوة ووحشية وعنصرية. ومن يقوم من تلك الشعوب بالمطالبة بأدنى حقوقهم، يزجّونهم في السجون! لكن لا بُدّ للقيد أن ينكسر ولا بُد لليل الظلام والظلم والعبودية أن ينجلي. وها هو نيسلون مانديلا ورفاقه يضربون أعظم الأمثلة في الوقوف في وجه التمييز العنصري ومحاربة كل أشكال الظلم والاستبداد. وسيسجّل التاريخ أسماء كل الأحرار الذين وقفوا في وجه المستعمرين الغاصبين العنصريين بأحرف من ذهب، وسيذهب أولئك الغاصبين إلى مزبلة التاريخ.

"لقد شعرت في تلك اللحظة التي عبرت فيها بوابة السجن أنني في الواحدة والسبعين من عمري أبدأ حياتي من جديد، وكانت تلك نهاية عشرة آلاف يوم في السجن"
-لحظة خروج مانديلا من السجن، بعد 27 عامًا قضاها وراء القضبان


تهرب مني كل الكلمات حين أريد التعبير عن سير الرجال العظام، ففيها من قوة الإيمان بالأهداف، وفيها من التأثير والمعاناة والطموح ما يفوق كل وصف.
لروحك السلام بابا مانديلا
ولأرواح جميع العظام السلام.
Profile Image for Ahmed .
41 reviews33 followers
December 6, 2013

(إنني في قرارة نفسي إنسان متفائل, وإن كنت لا أدري إن كان ذلك في طبيعتي أم في طبعي, ومن علامات التفاؤل أن يحافظ المرء على رأسه مرفوعا نحو السماء, وأن تكون خطاه متجهة إلى الأمام, لقد مرت بي لحظات عديدة اهتزت خلالها ثقتي بالإنسانية, ولكنني لم ولن أستسلم لليأس فذلك هو السبيل إلى الإخفاق والموت المحقق).
اعتقد ان قناعات هذا الرجل و ايمانه بفكرته كان مصدر قوته الحقيقى و لا يسعنى الا ان اقول كم انت عظيم يا مانديلا و قد صار كتابك هذا صديقى للابد
Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews593 followers
July 3, 2013
Where does one start with this? The story of freedom fighter, head of state, and world leader, Nelson Mandela--a book that spans his childhood, years spent in prison, and subsequent election as president. I grew up constantly reminded that a man, this man, was seated somewhere in South Africa in a prison cell, fighting for freedom for an entire nation and group of people.

The former president started this manuscript while in prison (sometime around 1974) and concocted a plan to have the original manuscript snuck out of prison (which ended up being a smart plan since prison guards confiscated what they thought was the original manuscript). The book is long and quite detailed (at times wordy), with extra care paid to conversations and political names and roles, travels Mandela had with political heads of state, the making of the political group The ANC, the start of the movement to denounce apartheid, and a detailed family tree in the beginning.

It is a book you usually see written by a biographer (like this one written about Warren Buffet: The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life Instead, the former president wrote this one himself, taking careful pains to even talk about his childhood school and upbringing (another thing you normally see omitted from autobiographies, and sometimes biographies). Excerpts from this book could be studied in history and literature classes.

It is a poignant read written in classic autobiography style, with a strong "voice," one that has serious life lessons and inspiration for anybody at any stage of life.

The best way I can discuss this book is by talking about the highlights of each of its eleven parts:

Part 1: This is about Mr. Mandela's childhood in the country. He talks about his family tree. His family came from the royal household of the Thembu tribe: his father was an adviser to kings, and a wealthy nobleman who lost his holdings when he was fired by a magistrate from England--even though he believed that he only answered to Thembu custom and not "by the laws of the king of England." The Mandela family chieftainship was then ended. His father died when he was young and his mother handed him over to a Xhosa chief named Jongubtaba, who had offered to be his guardian.

Part 2: Mandela escapes the chief's house (along with the chief's biological son) when he learns that marriage, and a set lifestyle that included rules and no personal freedom, had been arranged for them ("My head told me it was the right of every man to plan his own future as he pleased and choose his role in life.") He escaped to Johannesburg, where he worked as a night watchman and later as a law clerk as he completed his law degree ("my performance as a law student was dismal").

Part 3: Nelson Mandela as a freedom fighter. This section goes into details about the startup of the ANC, dispelling some myths. He also talks about his first wife, Evelyn Mase. The most profound and telling statement from this section (and arguably, the book) is this one:

"I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments, produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, From henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise. "

Part 4: This section details the beginning of the struggle. During this time, President Mandela opened his law firm. He talks about being harrassed in court by judges and attorneys, about being served an order from the police that would legally ban him from the ANC at age thirty-five.

Part 5: Mandela discusses his first divorce and his second marriage, as well as prison life. This is where the female contribution to the apartheid struggle is introduced: "...when the women begin to take an active part in the struggle, no power on earth can stop us from achieving freedom in our lifetime." I enjoyed seeing the admiration he had for his second wife, Winnie Madikizela, pour through in this section.

Part 6: The part that stood out for me in this section: his travels to West Africa where the anti-apartheid movement received financial and moral support from West African heads of state in Liberia, Mali, Guinea, Ghana, Sierra Leone, etc. This is also the section where he discusses the violence that had increased in African townships and the decision the ANC made to add guerrilla fighters to the resistance (MK).

Part 7: After living underground for seventeen months, President Mandela was arrested for "inciting African workers to strike and for leaving the country without valid travel documents" (1962). At first he was given five years. Later, someone from his organization (the guerrilla MK) would become a snitch for the police and a few executives from the organization, including Mandela, would be jailed for years.

Part 8: This was a heart-wrenching section. He talks about the dark years on Robben Island: "I could walk the length of my cell in three paces. When I lay down, I could feel the wall with my feet and my head grazed the concrete at the other side....I was forty-six years old, a political prisoner with a life sentence." He was entitled to have only one visitor and receive one letter within a six month timeframe. During this time, his wife was being harassed, jailed, interrogated, held in solitary confinement, and he wondered, "What were the authorities doing to my wife? How would she bear up? Who was looking after our daughters? Who would pay the bills?"

Part 9: Mr. Mandela's role as an underground leader was finally visible to the public. Keep in mind, when he was first jailed, people had no idea how he looked like because pictures were banned and the prisoners even had to steal newspapers which were considered contraband. Negotiations had started and this is also when he started to write this book, "I adopted a rather unorthodox work schedule: I would write most of the night and sleep during the day." He also mentioned a student boycott in this section that was mentioned in Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa

Part 10: Serious negotiations with the government and the incoming president, De Klerk. This section showcased one of Mr. Mandela's strengths: inclusiveness. He even stated that he wasn't in favor of having his white brothers leave, he just wanted his black brothers to have rights to their country. Pivotal moment I think, especially if you've read a lot of books on post colonialism.

Part 11: Freedom, separation from his wife, details of diplomatic meetings. This section is an invigorating read as President Mandela describes the crowds upon his release, his meetings with old friends, etc. One great moment was his reminder of seeing Mrs. King seated on the stage when he gave his first speech after being released: "Mrs. Coretta Scott King, the wife of the great freedom fighter Martin Luther King Jr.. was on the podium that night, and I looked over to her as I made my reference to her husband's immortal words..." Breathtaking moment. It made me want to re-read a few of the biographies I've read on Dr. King.

"I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free." -Nelson Mandela
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,738 reviews1,469 followers
September 1, 2021
I particularly like Mandela’s description of his twenty-seven years in prison. You get a real sense of what he has gone through. He does not dramatize, and he has never a pity me attitude. He kept a diary.

The telling is detailed but clear and understandable. Acronyms are sufficiently clarified. One need not be an expert to follow the text. I do wish that the year events take place had more often been stated. I also wish a map of the South African provinces and townships had been provided in a PDF.

Mandela does not emphasize the personal or his emotions. What is delivered is his life story as well as that of his nation. It concludes with his 1994 inauguration as president of the first democratic non-racial government of South Africa. At the close, the reader truly understands that which has been achieved!

Michael Boatman’s narration of the audiobook is exemplary. The narration I have given five stars. Every word is clearly spoken, and the pacing is perfect.

The book is not dry. It keeps your attention all the way through. I thought when I started, that it being so long, I might get bored. This did not happen! I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for ZaRi.
2,322 reviews767 followers
June 6, 2016
برای من لحظه مشخصی برای کشف حقیقت نبوده و هیچ چیز بخصوصی ناگهان الهام بخش من نشده، بلکه فقط مجموعه ای منظم از هزاران مورد بی حرمتی، هزاران مورد خرد شدن شخصیت و هزاران مورد لحظه از یاد رفته مرا به خشم می آورد، شورشی می کرد و این خواسته را در من تقویت می کرد که با سیستمی که مردم مرا اسیر خود کرده مبارزه کنم.
هیچ روز بخصوصی وجود نداشته که در آن روز گفته باشم از امروز به بعد زندگی خود را وقف آزادی مردم می کنم، بلکه فقط پی بردم که در حال مبارزه هستم و جز این نمی توانم کار دیگری انجام دهم...!
Profile Image for Alex.
1,418 reviews4,382 followers
February 27, 2017
Long Walk to Freedom is the first book I've read by the leader of a country containing instructions on how to overthrow a country.

Mandela is serious about this. He mentions that when his African National Congress decided to commit to violence, they read "works by and about Che Guevara, Mao Tse-tung, Fidel Castro" to figure out how to do it. The phrase "A freedom fighter must..." recurs. He means this to be read by freedom fighters. This book is many things, but maybe the most important thing is a manual for revolution.

It's also a defense of Mandela's legacy, and that part is interesting too. Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, which seemed odd to everyone since he has not advocated peace. "I called for nonviolent protest for as long as it was effective," he says. When it was ineffective, "I was candid and explained why I believed we had no choice but to turn to violence." He lays out the "four types of violent activities," which should be undertaken in order: "sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and open revolution." The ANC never moved beyond sabotage, but he says clearly: "we were prepared to move on to the next stage: guerrilla warfare and terrorism." So maybe I shouldn't say defense. It's a clarification.

This sets us up for the most dramatic scene in the book, and one of the most dramatic in history: the Rivonia Trial in 1964, in which Mandela and several others were sentenced to life in prison for sabotage. This was a victory: death was on the table. Mandela chose not to defend himself; instead he delivered a statement about which his lawyers said, "If Mandela reads this in court they will take him out in back of the courthouse and string him up." Here's part of his statement:
I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness nor because I have any love of violence, I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by whites.

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

You can actually hear part of this speech here - skip to 2:10 if you're in a hurry. It's an incredible thing to listen to.

I grew up while Mandela was in prison, and apartheid in South Africa was the first injustice I was aware of. My first experience with activism, in Amherst MA with the mighty activist Frances Crow, was running around town putting up posters with Mandela's face on them. Mandela screwed up my hair: in high school my mom wouldn't let me grow it long until I claimed that I wasn't cutting it until Mandela was freed, which she felt she couldn't argue with. They freed him like six months later and I was like aw, man. It seemed like a foolproof plan! I got to see him speak shortly afterwards in Boston on his freedom tour, but I didn't have a chance to tell him about my hair.

This is all to say that reading this book was a powerful experience for me. Mandela is one of history's true heroes of freedom. To be able to read his words is special and of immense value. I got actual chills at times, reading about how (for example) he refused to be freed if it meant compromising his movement. He was in jail for nearly 30 years. This isn't one of those books that makes you realize that the writer is just a person like you and me. Mandela was not like you and me. He was a titan.
Profile Image for Navid Taghavi.
159 reviews60 followers
September 2, 2020
در خیابان متوجه زن سفیدپوستی در جوی فاضلاب شدم که استخوان های باقی مانده از یک ماهی را می خورد. او فقیر و ظاهرا بی خانمان بود، اما جوان و زیبا بود. در حالی که من معمولا به گداهای آفریقایی پولی نمی دهم، اما احساس کردم باید به این زن کمک کنم. در آن لحظه من متوجه نیرنگ دیگر آپارتاید شدم که مشقت ها و رنج هایی را که هر روز گریبان گیر آفریقایی هاست، بعنوان واقعیتی پذیرفتنی جلوه می دهد. در آفریقای جنوبی فقیر بودن و سیاه بودن امری عادی است، اما فقیر بودن و سفید بودن تراژدی است.
Profile Image for Ingy.
205 reviews389 followers
December 8, 2011
من أحلى كتب السير الذاتية التي قرأتها، وأكثرها صلة بنضالنا في العالم العربي من أجل الحرية والديمقراطية. تبدأ مع طفولة المتناضل الأفريقي الأشهر نيلسون مانديلا، وتنتهي بتوليه الرئاسة في بلده، لكن نهاية الكتاب هي في الحقيقية بداية، فهي وعد باستكمال طريق النضال الطويل نحو الحرية..

لن أتحدث طويلا عن الكتاب، لكني سأنقل بعض العبارات والمقاطع منه التي أراها الاهم، أو الأشد صلة بواقعنا العربي، أو -وهو الأغلب- المقاطع التي تحمل افكارا استغربت أن تصدر عن مناضل مثله، وعلى سبيل المثال خلافه مع بعض من قادة "المؤتمر" على فكرة المقاومة المسلحة والعنف.. وفي ذلك يقول مناديلا عن فترة بداية مقاومة الأبارتايد في جوب افريقيا:

"الحكومة والشرطة كانت قد اتخذت التدابية لمنع اي اجتماع سلمي وتجريمه، وكانت الامور تسير تجاه حكم بوليسي. وبدأت أرى أن الاحتجاجات القانونية ستصبح مستحيلة في الوقت القريب فإن المقاومة السلمية تكون فعالة إذا تمسك من تقاومهم بنفس القوانين التي تتمسك بها أنت وإلا فلا فاعلية لها. وبالنسبة لي كان عدم العنف استراتيجية فقط ولم يكن مبدأً أخلاقيا. فلا يوجد خيار أخلاقي في استعمال سلاح غير فعال."

وفي موقف آخر يقول:

"لا نستطيع هزيمة الحكومة عسكرياً، ولكن بوسعنا جعل حكمها صعبا."

وهي فكرة شجاعة من مانديلا، ولها منطق وجيه، لكنها مخيفة، وحتما كانت السبب وراء العديد من أحداث العنف الدموية التي يسردها الكتاب فيما بعد، وإن كان البادئ في تلك الحالات كان غالبا سلطات الدولة القمعية.
لكني اتساءل.. ماذا لو كان مانديلا قد تعامل مع قضيته بسلمية غاندي، هل كانت ستجدي؟ هل كان المصير سيختلف؟
ومع ذلك فإن اللجوء إلى العنف كان الحل الأخير الذي اضطر إليه المؤتمر، بعد محاولات مستمرة لحل القضية سلميا فشلت جميعها لتعنت السلطة في التعامل مع السكان الأصليين والمنظمات التي تمثلهم.

على أن سنوات السجن التي تقارب الثلاثين قد صقلت فكر مانديلا، وقد تطورت آرائه بشكل كبير، إذ اكتشف لاحقاً انه أحياناً ما تكون المفاوضات هي الحل للخروج من المشكلة، بدلا عن صراح طويل الأجل يستنفذ الطاقات بلا جد��ى حقيقية.. وكان هذه الفكرة من المفاجآت بالنسبة لي في هذا الكتاب.. فلم اتصور مناديلا كمفواض، بل كمناضل، ولم أكن أعرف أنه شارك في مفاوضات طويل الأمد إلى خذا الحد..
على أن مانديلا ظل رافضاً لوقف العنف ضد السلطة، طالما اقتنع ان السطلة لن تنفذ تعهداتها.. وكان مصرا على أن يرتبط وقف العنف بتنفيذ خطوات جدية من جانب السلطة.. حيث لم يكن تطور فكر مانديلا وقبوله بالمفاوضات بديلا عن النضال على الأرض، لاسيما عند النظر إلى هذا النضال، ليس كطريقة للحل، بل كورقة من أوراق المفاوضة.
وفي ذلك يقول:

"كنت أود إفهام الحكومة أنه رغم رفضي العرض فإني اعتقد أن المفاوضات وليست الحرب هي السبيل للحل."

كما يؤكد مانديلا على أن الأولوية للحلول السلمية، فحتى العنف لم يلجأ إليه إلا كحل أخير:

"الشروط التي تريد الحكومة فرضها تسبب لي الدهشة، لأننا لم نسلك طريق العنف إلا بعد أن سدت أمامنا جميع .طرق المقاومة"

ولنتأمل هذا الرأي الذي يقوله مانديلا هنا (وكان ذلك في مناسبة انضمام اشخاص جدد للمؤتمر، مع ملاحظة ان مانديلا لم يكن قد تعرض للسجن بعد):

"وكان عديد ممن انضموا للمنظمة الجديدة قد فعلوا ذلك لأسباب شخصية منها الغيرة والرغبة في الانتقام. وكان اعتقادي دائماً أن على المقاتل من أجل الحرية أن يكبت كثيرا من المشاعر الشخصية التي تجعل منه فرداً مستقلاً بدلاُ من جزء من حركة جماهيرية، واعتقدات أن كثير من تلك الآراء والتصرفات غير ناضجة. ورغم تعاطفي مع آراء الأفارقة والقوميين فقد كنت اعتقد أن النضال من اجل الحرية يتطلب من الإنسان القبول بآراء وسيطة وتقبل نظم قاومها حينما كان أحدث سنا."

"ليس هناك أي تعارض لتأييدي الكفاح المسلح وتمسكي بالمفاوضات، فالكفاح المسلح هو الذي أتى بالحكومة إلى حافة المفاوضات."

أي أن مانديلا يربط بين الاثنين، ولا يرى الكفاح المسلح غاية، بل وسيلة للوصول إلى المفاوضات، فالمفاوضات بالنسبة له هي الأساس.
وعن رأيه في أساليب المقاومة داخل السجن:

"وكنت أرى أن مجرد الاضراب عن الطعام داخل السجن أمر غير واقعين فلكي يكون فعالاً يجب أن يعلم به العالم الخارجي، وكانت الاتصالات شبه مستحيلة في تلك السنوات. وبالنسبة لي كان الاضراب عن الطعام أمراً سلبياً يضر بصحة أجسادنا الضعيفة، واستدعاء للموت. وكنت دائماً أفضل أنواع المقاومة الأكثر ايجابية ونضالاً كالاضراب عن العمل والتباطؤ ورفض أعمال النظافة وتلك أعمال تضر بالسلطات ولا نعاقب بها انفسنا. ..."

ثم يعود مانديلا للتأكيد على نقطة هامة في النضال ضمن مجموعة.. إذ رغم اختلاف أعضاء المؤتمر على العديد من الأفكار إلا أن القرار ما إن اتخذ حتى يلتزم به الجميع.

"... ولكن اقتراحاتي لم تلق تأييدا، وكان متى اتخذ القرار اؤيده تماما."

ثم يخرج مانديلا منتصراً من السجن، وتبدأ مفاوضاته مع الحكومة، وتظهر مشكلة جديدة..

"كانت هناك المشاكل الفلسفية أيضاً، فإنه بالإمكان توحيد الحركة أثناءالحرب مع العدو المشترك، لكن إيجاد سياسة على مائدة المفاوضات أمر مختلف، فإنه كان علينا أن ندمج مجموعات عديدة في المؤتمر وأيضاٌ آراء مختلفة."

مما يذكرني بمرحلة ما بعد الثورة التي تمر بها دول الربيع العربي أو أي دولة تخرج من حالة حراك جماهيري كبير على الأرض ضد عدو مشترك.
وقد توصل مانديلا إلى حل تلك المشكلة جزئياً من خلال مؤتمرات جماهيرية واسعة، لكن لم تكن تلك نهاية المشكلات..
فقد نكثت الحكومة بوعدها في مرحلة ما، وتسببت في مذبحة كبيرة، وقام مانديلا يخطب في الجماهير فلاحظ ما يلي:

"كانت اللافتات التي حملها المتجمهرون تنادي باستعمال السلاح والتخلي عن المحادثات، وتفهمت عواطف الجماهير التي كانت تريد إسقاط الأبارتايد وكانت قد سئمت المفاوضات، وكان العمل الجامهيري في تلك اللحظة طريقاً وسطاً بين المفواضات والكفاح المسلح."

ويقصد بالعمل الجماهيري هنا حركة واسعة من المظاهرات والاضرابات التي نظمها المؤتمر في البلاد.

ومن المثير للاهتمام حقاً ان مانديلا أجرى عدد من الاجتماعات مع مسؤولي الحكومة بشكل سري، ولم يكن ذلك خداعا للجماهير، ولكن لإعطاء الفرصة للحكومة للتفاوض دون ضغوط الرأي العام للبيض الذين كانوا يرفضون التفاوض مع الأفارقة.. فمانديلا كان مفاوضا بارعا، فضل مساعدة الخصم من أجل الوصول إلى تسوية مقبولة من كافة الأطراف على أن يضغط على الحكومة من اجل الدخول في مفاوضات علنية تتوقف بعد قليل تحت ضغط الرأي العام، فتصل البلاد بذلك إلى طريق مسدود..

ومن اللافت للنظر كذلك الطريقة التي تعامل بها المؤتمر مع الجماهير في فترة الانتخابات، التي دخلها المؤتمر لأول مرة كمنظمة شرعية.. إذ نظم المؤتمر مؤتمرات جماهيرية واسعة لتوعية الجماهير "مؤتمرات الشعب"، وصاغ برنامجه بشكل مفصل ليشرح رؤيته، لافتاً النظر إلى أنه لا يريد للمؤتمر أن يكسب تعاطف الجماهير وأصواتهم عبر تذكيرهم بما قدمه لهم في فترة النضال، ولكن عبر طرح رؤيته للمستقبل، فالنضال لا يجب في رأي مانديلا أن يكون الإنجاز الوحيد الذي على اساسه يكسب المؤتمر أصوات الجماهير ويصل إلى البرلمان.

كما يلفت مانديلا الأنظار إلى أمر آخر:

"وشعرت أيضاً أننا يجب أن نخبر الشعب بما لن نستطيع عمله. فقد كان الجميع يشعرون أن الحياة يمكن أن تتغير في أعقاب انتخابات ديمقراطية حرة. ولذلك كنت أخبر الجماهير أنهم يجب ألا يتوقعوا أن يتملكوا سيارة مرسيدس ويكون لديهم حوض سباحتهم الخاص بعد الانتخابات، فكنت أقول لهم انه لن يكون هناك تغيير مفاجئ سوى احترامهم لأنفسهم كمواطنين في أرضهم وأنهم قد ينتظرون خمس سنوات لتؤتي الخطة ثمارها، كما كنت أقول لهم إن عليهم أن يعملوا بجد إن أرادوا حياة أفضل " فلن نفعل ذلك لكم ولكنكم أنتم الذين ستحققونه بأنفسكم"."

وفي الخاتمة المؤثرة التي كتبها مانديلا منهياً بها قصة صراع طويل، يقول:

"لم أفقد الأمل أبداً أن التغيير لابد آت، ليس فقط بسبب هؤلاء الأبطال، لكن بسبب شجاعة النساء والرجال العاديين من شعبي، فلا يوجد أحد يكره شخصاً بسبب لونه او خلفيته أو دينه، فإن الناس لابد أن يتعلموا أن يكرهوا، وإن كانوا قادرين على تعلم الكراهية فلابد وأنهم قادرون على تعلم الحب. ففي أحلك أوقات السجن حينما كنت ورفاقي نساق إلى حافة القدرة على الاحتمال كنت أرى وميضاً من الإنسانية في أحد الحراس، ربما لمدة ثانية، لكن كان ذلك الوميض يطمئنني."

الحق أن قصة كفاح جنوب أفريقيا، ومانديلا تحديدا، من أروع قصص الكفاح، تكاد تكون أسطورية، وأرى فيها الكثير من ملامح الربيع العربي، وإن كان الفارق الأساسي (بخلاف أن ما يجري في العالم العربي ثورات وانتفاضات وليس مجرد صراع من أجل الحقوق المدنية) أن مانديلا لم يفكر في الانتقام من نظام سابق، بل وسعى للتأكيد في كل مناسبة، وفي كل موضع من هذا الكتاب على أنه لا يرغب في طرد البيض من البلاد ولا في الانتقام منهم، بل في أن يكونوا شركاء للأفارقة في الوطن (وربما يعود هذا لمسألة الفرق بين الثورة والكفاح من اجل الحقوق المدنية كما أسلفت)..
ويتجلى الفارق الثاني في أن كفاح جنوب أفريقيا كان منظم من قبل عدد من المنظمات، ولم يكن حركة جماهيرية غير منظمة، مما أعطى الأفارقة القدرة على ترتيب أنفسهم بشكل أفضل، وجعل من الممكن التفكير بشكل عملي وفي حلول المشكلات بشكل أكثر حكمة في المواقف التي تحتاج إلى تعامل دقيق.

الخلاصة: أنصح كل عربي بقراءة هذا الكتاب، فما احوجنا الآن إلى استخلاص العبر من تجارب من سبقونا، لا سيما لو كانت متشابهة في كثير من جوانبها مع ظروفنا.
Profile Image for Amanda Brinkmann.
27 reviews10 followers
January 14, 2013
I tried reading this book SO many times right after it was published - but found myself so upset and saddened, that I realised I was simply not emotionally ready to deal with the contents. So - it sat on my shelf for nearly 10 years, before I felt ready and healed enough to pick the book up again.

It was, for me, a riveting read. I sobbed my way through a great many of the sections, I learned so much about the history of my country and the genesis of the African National Congress and its original noble and lofty ideals.

The wisdom, strength, fortitude and humanity of Nelson Mandela - our Madiba - radiated from every page. I felt very enriched after closing the last page of the book. I also felt an immense sense of bereftment, anger [ because of the realisation about just how MUCH had in fact been censored and kept away from me, whilst growing up, by the Apartheid government] and also sadness. It took me months to process all of the information, but it certainly provided me with another layer of knowledge and perspective so as to better understand the psyche of the people of our Rainbow Nation. A must-read.
Profile Image for Caroline.
503 reviews563 followers
May 20, 2015
What to say about one of the world’s most highly esteemed books? I am wholly inadequate to give a review of the book as such, but here, as usual, are a few notes to remind myself of the reading...


This book is a must read for anyone remotely interested in South Africa. At 750 pages it is a bit of a door stopper – but it is infinitely readable. Mandela writes wonderfully well, and his story is utterly gripping. It was a bittersweet read for me at this time, as he draws to the end of his life. He has been a monument on our landscape for so long, and such a great hero in the eyes of so many. Me included.

Profile Image for Joey.
199 reviews47 followers
November 9, 2015
I learned Nelson Mandela’s life from my high school history because of the word, apartheid. (Thanks to Mahatma Gandhi; he introduced him to us on his cause of Caste System in India.) However, I just scratched the surface of him t as my teacher did not tell much details about him as if he was not attached much importance to the subject. ( If I were my teacher, I would have told much more about him.) In fact, I mistook him for a Black-American. Uh-oh! I was still an ignoramus at that time despite the fact that I was enthused about studying history. Few years later, he drew my attention when he was in the news ; he was reported to have passed away. The world was so grieved by his death that he was almost the headlines of all the newspapers and news programs. Only that time did I realize that he was such a big name in the world. As usual, I desired to know him more by reading his life. However, I did not afford to buy his book then. Eventually, my generous-to-fault student gifted me this book. Of course, I grinned from ear to ear with joy. Full of enthusiasm, I started to read it. However, it took me time to finish it and ended up on my study table for a few months. The book is light because of Mandela’s prose but steeped in geographical places and anthropological and political terminologies only South African can almost relate to. Nevertheless, I liked it on account of Mandela’s ideologies, experiences, and speeches he delivered before his people.

I enjoyed reading Mandela’s autobiography because of his light English prose as the indication that he had studied well- typical of a smart student studying in English speaking countries. For your information, South Africa has many official languages, and English is one of them. Thus, not the majority of its population uses the language every day. Another impressive thing about writing his autobiography is his capability to incorporate his various feelings, be they in positive or negative, into his compelling narrations. Sometimes, other autobiographers write with highfalutin, highbrow, and high-flown stories or with unfathomably philosophical insights beyond my understanding (, but still I try to bend my mind to them until I bash my head against the wall ending up into a library of books or surfing the internet. Ones of best examples so far are Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Selected Writings and Poems.) Therefore, reading Mandela’s autobiography can be likened to a teen-ager’s diary. Everyone can take a fancy for his diary unless you are that a political animal. On the contrary, his usage of some political, geographical, and anthropological terms which I am not very much familiar with undermine the said like-a-teen-ager’s-diary element. You might get tired of them , saturated with the words you need to absorb in and turn over in your mind. In fact, it has 859 pages, the thickest book I have read this year. Thus, you have no choice but to turn to Google or to a library of history books if you are a Luddite in order to understand them by heart. That’s why I did not lay a finger on it for a few months. In the end, Mandela’s autobiography, in my hypothetical suggestion, could still be a critically acclaimed book for its two kinds ,A LONG WALK TO FREEDOM: NELSON MANDELA'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY: AN ABRIDGED VERSION- expunged some technical words and A LONG WALK TO FREEDOM: NELSON MANDELA'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY: UNABRIDGED VERSION, same with this original version.

Reading his speeches is also page-turning. There’s something about his speeches – they were like causing mass hysteria among South Africans at that time. I tend to read his narrations as fast as I could in order to imaginatively listen to them . As a matter of fact, I tended to search his speeches on Youtube wondering how he delivered them. I would say that Nelson Mandela, along with Malcolm X , has most moving speeches I have read so far.

Mandela’s autobiography reminded me of Malcolm X, another Black -American revolutionary who had somewhat the same cause—racial equality. Malcolm X , based on his best-selling authorized biography, also believed that Black-Americans should be equal to White Americans . He demonstrated against the culture of discrimination against his fellow Blacks. The only differences between their causes were: specifically, Mandela fought against the Apartheid whereas Malcolm X against general forms of discrimination. Still, both of their causes categorically fall to racial equality. Besides, there is one surprising thing that made me jump to my conclusion: Nelson Mandela’s last resort was using violence when he came to the point that diplomatic negotiation did not work at all. In fact, he had been influenced by the idea of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi on civil disobedience. After all , he succumbed to Malcolm X’ slogan , “ BY ANY NECESSARY MEANS.”, which I surmised he had disliked ;rather, admired Martin Luther King’s , “ I HAVE A DREAM.”I guess I can also conclude as well as you agree that , sometimes , in any circumstances even in history, Malcom X’s slogan worked and is feasible as long as this is the last resort as was Mandela’s. On the contrary, in the end, Mandela had proved that “virtue of patience” in the name of peaceful, friendly, and sincere ,as he put it, negotiation can work.
Likewise, Mandela was weaned on communism or Marxism - the political idea that also influenced Malcolm X and Richard Wright, famous for his books, The Native Son and Black Boy. Did this idea also occur to some revolutionaries in a place with insurgent atmosphere because of social injustice? So does to some at the present situation?

Before I finished it, Aristotle had taught me his The Republic, a philosophy book that also deals with the real meaning of JUSTICE. ( I haven’t written my review of it yet.) It has the dialogues among the Philosophers debating over the scopes of justice. As a student of his , discombobulated, mulling over his students’ philosophical explanation, upon reading Mandela’s autobiography, it dawned upon me that justice means equality. In other words, I applied understanding The Republic by Aristotle to Mandela’s book. For instance, for Plato and Socrates, justice is fulfilling one's appropriate role, and consequently giving to the city what is owed.* In a simple way, I want to illustrate the virtue Nelson Mandela believed in my life. I want that life in some aspects is “FAIR”. That’s why, without malice, without this air of pride and pompousness, I want to respect people regardless of their skin color , sex , and race ; I respect in action people with deeply-seated religious beliefs despite I have this Richard Dawkins’s –desire to change the world; I empathize “the destitute” despite that giving alms is not my principle except for “the needy”, but bringing them to their senses that capitalism is an evil, that living in this world is consummate “survival of the fittest”.

Mandela applied his rude awakening to equality to understanding the people he got along with . With this belief, he became a freedom fighter, stalwart, determined, humble with undefeated fighting spirit. That was Nelson Mandela, and in the end, despite the travails he had gone through, he made it to his final walk to FREEDOM.

Obviously, my long review of this book indicates my feeling of fulfillment. I am glad that I finished it after a short while. I do not regret having laid it aside on my study table. Just I let the time permit.

Thanks to my student ( Sr. Angela ) for picking it among the books in a book store, without the idea that I had longed to read it ; she had granted my wish. If I were a pantheist, I would exclaim ,”What a divine intervention!” ^_^
Profile Image for Sarah.
215 reviews5 followers
November 1, 2007
It was an interesting read. Sorry, that's a bit of an understatement and the dry tone in my head doesn't really translate. Mandela is a good, clear writer, but not creative or inventive. One can see the methodical planning that made him such an effective political leader and innovator, but as the author of a 625 page book, his style is a little stiff. The first half of the book is about his upbringing and path into politics. The problem I was having was that there was no way to tell from his formative years how or why he stood apart. Indeed, I would say that as a literary figure, he does not become a leader until after he has been imprisoned for several years, past when he was considered a leader by members of his organization and constituency. Almost as if he needed to be a leader in the eyes of others before he considered himself to be one or truly acted as one. Maybe it is the reality that one cannot lead until after there are people who will follow that lead. I am interested in how he became such a leader in the eyes of the people. What is it about someone that turns them from an ordinary person to a freedom fighter or revolutionary to a true leader, born up by the masses.

I was also comparing the regime of South Africa to those in South America. The ANC and other groups in South Africa had certain advantages which made their form of protest -- the slow-downs, the rallies -- successful and possible, and ironically, the advantages stemmed from the control exercised by the colonial rulers and the legacy of British Imperialism. Mandela could, at times, invoke certain rules of law, and demand that the protesters were treated fairly under the laws. Whatever the laws at the time were (except the very last years where it seems the government learned that if they wanted to get serious about suppressing the people, they could not be hampered by the rule of law), the government would obey them. In contrast, in the South American dictatorships, headed not by imperial forces, there was no rule of law. People simply disappeared. The revolutionaries could not appeal to the court system for justice because the government did not have laws that even nominally protected dissenting voices. One thing Mandela said over and over again was the oppressing party dictated the terms of the struggle. Those who were challenging the government's policies had to respond in the manner in which they were treated. In India, the government allowed protest and dissent, which in turn meant that Ghandi could demonstrate by walking though the country and preaching nonviolence as a means of rejecting colonial rule. In contrast, in South America, a protester could not more begin to speak against the government before being shot, imprisoned or tortured, with no chance of appealing to a higher power for protection. Maybe that is why there were more rebels in countries trying to overturn the dictatorships than there were revolutionaries in the Western understanding of the term.

At the end of the book, when the power was really going to shift and Mandela, in his 80s, was elected president, I actually became more agitated. At what price was his freedom? And what would the people who fought so hard, who died, paying the ultimate price, think? Those who died, would they think their sacrifices worth while, especially because in the end it was through peaceful negotiation and compromise. With the transition away from apartheid being so moderate and their sacrifice being so extreme. Maybe it was the disconnect that struck me so forcefully, that Mandela himself never talks about being tortured or injured in the struggle. Throughout he remains the great statesmen who is untouched by the violence. Those who were tortured, hanged, beaten, or shot, by contrast seem like a corollary, unrelated to the final pressures that forced the government's position to the negotiation table.
Profile Image for Julie.
554 reviews276 followers
January 27, 2013
If we do nothing else for those who suffer for a cause, we must at least bear witness and say, I have seen, and understood.

Many people the world over have waxed prolific and poetic on this book, and all that is left to say is, it is a must-read for anyone who cares about anything at all in this world. This struggle cannot be dismissed as a partisan "engagement". It is not just about apartheid; it is not about fighting a harsh regime; it is not about man's inhumanity to man -- and all that "stuff" that so many readily dismiss, once the book is shelved again.

It is about one man, walking, and holding his head up despite everything that was thrown upon his shoulders. It is how to preserve dignity, strength and integrity -- and have the moral constitution to wake up to it day after day after day, for the entire course of his life. It's easy to maintain a posture for a day or a week or a month; but to hold on to it for a lifetime -- that is a strength that only a very few can maintain.

To emerge out of the darkness of his prison, of his life, and still shine with hope for humanity -- and faith that goodness will prevail -- leaves me speechless.

Profile Image for Dan.
1,105 reviews52 followers
October 7, 2020
Long Walk to Freedom

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter, I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.

Nelson Mandela

This remarkable autobiography was penned in 1994 several years after apartheid ended and Mandela was elected South Africa’s President. This is much more of a history book than a typical autobiography. And it is a notably humble portrayal. I can’t think of any world figures who’ve had a greater influence on the world in my lifetime — and there are few events in recent times as important as the end of apartheid.

This is a long review and has some spoilers for those who do not know much of Mandela’s history.

In 1918 Rolilhalha “Nelson” Mandela was born in the small rural village of Mbezo along the Mbashe River in South Africa. He was given his Christian name - Nelson - at the age of seven after his mother sent him away to the Methodist school. After what he called a ‘mischievous’ childhood, Mandela would eventually go on to law school and begin a career as a lawyer and political activist for the African National Congress.

For all but last the few years of the 20th century, South Africa was a minority rule British colony. Black Africans could not officially even own property. As landowners the Dutch descended Afrikaners also wielded power, even though they had lost the Second Boer War to the British at the turn of the century.

Much of the wealth in the country came from the gold and diamond mines. The most dangerous jobs in the mines were filled by Black Africans. Mandela himself even worked in the mines briefly. The political situation for Black Africans became even more dire following WW II when the feared Afrikaners filled the ruling class vacuum after Great Britain retreated from many of her colonies including South Africa.

As a ringleader of revolts and with some communist party affiliations the ANC slowly began to diverge from the pacifist ways of Ghandi. Mandela was convicted of various treasonous crimes around organizing and advocating civil rights— today these crimes would barely warrant a few nights in jail. Instead Mandela would spend a total of twenty-seven years in prison, most of his years were on Robben Island and in Johannesburg Prison — where Gandhi had been jailed some three decades earlier for the same crime of organizing protesters and revolutionaries.

Upon his release in 1993, Mandela was elected as South Africa’s first African president, capturing 63% of the vote and served until 1999, bringing South Africa through a very difficult period. Mandela died in Johannesburg in 2013 - one of the 20th century’s most important figures.

The content is broken into eleven parts.

Part One - A Country Childhood - 4.5 stars

In this section, that Mandela wrote while in prison, we see more focus on the natural surroundings than in any other chapter. We learn of the hills and streams in the veld that he wandered through as a child and the village of huts where everyone slept on the ground. He spent many years in Qunu where he stated he spent the ‘happiest years of my boyhood’. His father was a local chief but when he refused to show deference to a British magistrate he lost his land. Eventually, after his father dies penniless, young Nelson is raised by a more prominent chief and Nelson is educated at the Methodist school. Very few people in his village were literate, so this education gives him a real advantage even in divided South Africa. He then attends college at Fort Hare, the only institution of higher learning for Black Africans in South Africa. It is here that he learns about the African National Congress which will shape much of his life trajectory.

Part Two - Johannesburg - 3.5 stars

Mandela studies law at the University of Witwatersrand and learns even more about class distinction and discrimination. This is during the second world war. He makes many friends including Indian students, who are also heavily discriminated against. They are fighting for many of the same rights that Gandhi had fought for in South Africa some thirty years earlier. Very short section. I thought it could have been contained with the next section.

Part Three - Birth of a Freedom Fighter - 4 stars

Mandela begins his law practice and becomes a key figure in the ANC. When the Dutch Afrikaners win the election after World War II, apartheid begins and Mandela and his friends become very concerned about the future of the country.

Part Four - The Struggle is My Life - 4.5 stars

Mandela fights for liberation and delivers many speeches. He and the ANC are affiliating with the Communist party and the Indian Congress. He organizes national boycotts. The ANC and Mandela become enemy number one and the Afrikaner government passes numerous anti-sedition laws. Riots and government massacres become more commonplace.

Part Five - Treason - 5 stars

On December 5, 1956 Mandela is arrested at his home outside of Johannesburg in front of his children. The charge is high treason. One hundred and fifty six Africans are arrested. Mandela is transferred to the Johannesburg Prison and eventually released on bail. It takes the government three years to try the case. Meanwhile many protests, conflicts and massacres shake the country.

In 1959, the Sharpeville massacre kills sixty-nine Africans and wounded 400. The police panicked when protestors surrounded the station and fired over 700 bullets. The government is on edge.

Eventually the court rules that the prosecution had failed to prove that the ANC had acquired or adopted a policy to overthrow the state by violence. Mandela and others are acquitted but not vindicated.

Part Six - The Black Pimpernel - 4.5 stars

Mandela goes underground as he expects the government to charge him with different crimes. He travels to other African countries, learns about their progress toward independence. He also accepts money for the South Africa branch of the ANC. He learns about guerrilla warfare. Although he does not participate in any of these revolutions, he learns and writes about the organizational aspects of revolutions. This is what lands him in hot water — again.

Part Seven - Rivonia 4 stars

In August 1962 Mandela is taken into custody when he returns to South Africa. He is again charged with treason and this time the government has evidence. His private papers indicate the ANC is plotting a revolution. He admits to some of the charges around sabotage not treason. It is not a lengthy trial and although the death penalty is in play, the world’s eyes are on the case. In November Nelson and his compatriots are convicted and Judge Quartus de Wet, concerned about the negative attention, spares Nelson’s and the others lives with a sentence of life in prison. The prisoners are relieved as they know there is a chance that they will eventually be freed. They had no idea of how long they would end up waiting.

Part Eight - Robben Island: The Dark Years - 5 stars.

Now sentenced as a man in his forties, Mandela is assigned to serve his time at Robben Island near Capetown. This prison becomes a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement. Despite the harsh conditions and forced labor in the rock quarry, Mandela makes many friends amongst his fellow inmates. He also uses his fame to avoid some of the worst abuses and debasement from the prison guards. Despite his age these are formative years for Mandela and his resolve only hardens.

Part Nine - Robben Island: Beginning to Hope 4.5 stars.

Over time some of the harshest measures at Robben Island are removed but prisoners are still banned from reading any newspapers. Instead the rumors of the unrest in South Africa and anti-apartheid views around the world filter into the prison through visitors and even guards. This gives the prisoners hope. In 1982 Mandela and several of his compatriots are told they are being moved to Pollsmoor Prison outside of Cape Town.

Part Ten - Talking with the Enemy 5 stars.

Pollsmoor Prison is more modern than Robben Island, but it lacks the beauty of Robben Island. Mandela had just spent the previous nineteen years of his life there and leaving is difficult for him. At Pollsmoor the prisoners are connected to outside events and are allowed to read newspapers. A lot of civil unrest is happening in South Africa including bombings connected to a more radical group called MK and in turn radical right wing groups affiliated with the ruling party are sending mail bombs to anti-apartheid activists. By the late eighties, the prison captain and warden take Mandela for drives out into the countryside and treat him somewhat respectfully, as if to assess his mental state and prepare him for release into society. Of course the first time this happens, Mandela does not know if they mean to kill him or trick him into escaping as he was still a prisoner. In 1987 Mandela is diagnosed with tuberculosis that he picks up in prison and the prison officials became very concerned. They bring in medical professionals from the government and transfer him to Cape Town where he was quickly operated on him and receives the best medical care. When de Klerk takes over in 1990, Mandela is brought into private discussions with the government around apartheid.

Part Eleven - Freedom 5 stars

This was a chapter where Mandela shows a great deal of restraint and humility. This chapter is a little rushed — the later events happen just months before the book is published. Mandela by this time has millions of followers in South Africa and around the world so the pressures are great on the government to release the political prisoners. In January 1990 President Botha, an avowed racist and adversary of majority rule government, resigns due to illness but the speculation is that he recognizes which way the country is headed. By the next month February 2 1990, the new President de Klerk signs an agreement officially ending apartheid in South Africa which had been in place since 1948. Nine days later de Klerk releases Mandela from prison and wipes his record clean. Mandela does not want to be released from prison until he can make arrangements to say goodbye to everyone. De Klerk refuses but does remove the ban on the ANC and other political groups and allows Mandela to return to Cape Town City Hall and the Grand Parade. Mandela addresses a crowd in excess of 100,000 people. Many including Mandela’s driver are overwhelmed by the size of the crowd. Mandela tells him not to panic as they weave through the raucous crowds to City Hall where he gives his famous speech on freedom and unity.

Even though they are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly, Mandela doesn’t much care for de Klerk and in the later presidential debate in 1994 — de Klerk now his opponent — Mandela acknowledges the debt of gratitude he owes de Klerk and says they will get through this together. This is a brilliant strategic move and once more Mandela is seen as a unifier. A month later in May 1994, Mandela is elected President of South Africa with nearly 63% of the popular vote. De Klerk later serves as his deputy. All told this chapter could have been much longer, but the good news is that every sentence is a moment in history.

Overall the pacing in this book is quite even. The last four chapters including the prison years, were easily the most captivating for me. I was struck by how many words and photographs in the book were about Mandela’s friends from prison. There is a poignant picture of Mandela and his friend Walter Sisulu standing together as old men - they are smiling and giving the Afrika salute. They had spent over two decades in prison together fighting apartheid and Mandela never forgot this time.

5 stars. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
429 reviews259 followers
July 17, 2010
I bought this book in January and didn't get around to reading it until March. I was at a Goodwill 50% off sale the day I got this and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to have it.
As someone who has strong roots in South Africa but has never been there I am always eager to learn more about the country my father and his family were born in particularly because my father and his family left South Africa in the 40's to escape the apartheid even though they were "coloured" and not "black" it still impacted them.
I hadn't read an autobiography or biography since I was younger and I knew that even though I'm a quick reader that this book would take me a while to read due to the tone.
I'm quite impressed with Mandela's story telling ability. He narrates his life flawlessly in a way that is easy to read and understand. It was informative and I enjoyed learning things from his perspective. I quite enjoyed the part at the start of the book where he talks about his childhood and his family.
This book had no downsides for me. He's a truly inspirational man who deserves praise for being one of the people who helped build the New South Africa. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking to expand their horizons and read a book about one of the most inspirational people ever.
Profile Image for Tonya.
12 reviews9 followers
May 22, 2007
What do I really have to say? :-) I read this before the first time I went to South Africa and fell in love with the country...hence two return trips! I had some amazing experiences during the pr days and one was a private tour of Robben Island with Ahmed Kathrada while in SA. He was imprisoned with and a close friend of Mandela's (one of eight sentenced to life imprisonment during the Rivonia Trial). Anyway, obviously it was amazing since he knew EVERYTHING about the time and place (he was there afterall), but reading this book before then allowed me to be much more knowledgeable about the politics of the time and more importantly, the life of such an extraodinary man. Though my anger did boil at times due to the injustice of what was happening, this book is 100% inspiration. I just could not put it down. I think it was like 800 pages or more, and I read it in two days, staying up all night! And to top it off, I met Mandela only a few days later at an event he hosted and it was one of very few times in my life that I was in complete awe!
Profile Image for Sahar Zakaria.
345 reviews568 followers
November 7, 2021
ليست العبرة بطول الرحلة ولكن العبرة بتحقيق الهدف .. رحلة نيلسون مانديلا من أجل الحرية رحلة طويلة .. قاسية .. وباهظة الثمن .. دفع ثمنها سنوات طوال من عمره بين جدران السجون .. ولكنه أبدا لم يكن مكتوف الأيدي أو مكمم الفم .. بل ظل يناضل بكل ما أوتي من شجاعة وقوة وإصرار حتى استطاع أن يحقق حلم الحرية لشعبه ويقضي على نظام التمييز العنصري في بلاده .. وتم تتويجه كأول رئيس جمهورية من السود في جنوب أفريقيا عام ١٩٩٤.

"العبيد فقط يطلبون الحرية .. الأحرار يصنعونها"

"ليس حرا من يهان أمامه إنسان ولا يشعر بالإهانة"

"الشجاعة ليست هي غياب الخوف ولكنها الإنتصار عليه"
Profile Image for Henry Martin.
Author 96 books144 followers
July 29, 2013
It is not very often that I set to read non-fiction. This book, however, was originally recommended to me by a Rwanda refugee and so I made an exception. What a good decision that was.
Although I was familiar with Mandela's life and South Africa's struggle against the apartheid regime, this book provided me with much more profound understanding of the struggle and the historical events leading to the eventual overthrow of the racist regime. This book, however, is much more than an account of a dark time period in the history of humanity. Above all, this book is an amazing portrayal of a life of a man, an exceptional man who is much too human. We are taken through time, from Mandela's childhood to his presidency, blessed with a unique view of a man marked to die in a secluded prison. His struggle to become a "first-class" citizen and the brutal force with which the then government crushes the hopes of the young men and women is only but a part of the story. Most importantly, we are allowed a unique window into Mandela's psyche and his philosophy, for this book, to me, is mostly about human spirit, its strengths and its weaknesses. Mandela's contemplations regarding the social order, humanity, law, schools and his personal approaches are fascinating and profound. He delves into the depths of human behavior in a fluid, understandable way; his words flow on the pages from one event onto the next, while maintaining a uniform message. Although he did engage in securing financing for a possible armed conflict, his hopes and faith reside in a non-violent solution. Mandela's life is, after all, one giant wound on the face of mankind. Neglected and abandoned by the superpowers of the world, the people of South Africa never lost hope and Mandela is a fascinating and shining example of a man, stripped of everything, who, no matter what life threw in his way, maintained his dignity and his sight not only on the problems, but also on the solutions. An amazing read I am happy to recommend. This book should be read by everyone.
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