Monday, August 27, 2018

Long Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, was terrific. What a leader. At great personal sacrifice to himself, he helped bring about massive change in racial relations in South Africa.

He was a trailblazer in more realms than just the political one he is most known for. He was one of the few black lawyers in South Africa, and opened the first black law office in Johannesburg. He did come from some royal tribal blood lines, which allowed him some opportunities that most other black people were not afforded. This made me wonder about all the Nelson Mandelas or Einsteins etc. that could have been, but died of starvation or never got the chance to get educated etc. and so we have never heard of them.

I found it interesting that the rules for blacks actually got more restrictive in South Africa over the early decades of Mandela's life. I sometimes get lulled into thinking of "progress" as some straight line, whereas it often happens in fits and starts as well as steps backwards! In South Africa, a nationalist party that wasn't expected to win suddenly won an election and started implementing reforms that further marginalized the black population.

I was also struck by how little he seemed to sleep. It seems to me he was one of the few people who can get by on minimal sleep and still produce a brilliant mind. As a lawyer at his firm, he would work all day for his clients and then work much of the night for his cause. As a fugitive, he would have to conduct most of his meetings during the night while studying during the day. And as a prisoner, he was forced into manual labour during the day, and yet he would earn degrees by correspondence by studying at night. What an advantage to be able to have more hours in a day than the average person, and what use he was able to make of these hours to improve the standing of his people.

I highly recommend Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela.

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