TIMELINES: What African political prisoner was liberated on Feb. 11, 1990?

February 10, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Feb. 11, 1990, after serving 27 years in prison for his opposition to apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela is released from Victor-Verster Prison in Paarl, South Africa at the age of 71. As deputy-president of the African National Congress (ANC), Mandela advocates nonviolent opposition to the apartheid system in South Africa for 8 years before organizing a paramilitary branch of the ANC in response to the 1960 massacre of peaceful demonstrators in Sharpeville, South Africa. In June of 1964, Mandela is convicted of sabotage and treason and sentenced to life in prison. Mandela spends the majority of his prison term on Robben Island, off Cape Town where he performed hard labor. While in prison, Mandela rejects multiple offers of early release because he refuses to compromise his principles and agree to conditions. Following a wave of reforms ending apartheid in the country, South African President F.W. de Klerk orders Mandela’s release from prison in 1990. Three years later, Mandela and de Klerk are jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1994, Mandela is elected the first black president of South Africa.


Today, located on three sites in South Africa (Mvezo, Qunu, and Mthatha) near in the place where Nelson Mandela was born and raised, the Nelson Mandela Museum stands dedicated to his legacy and the development and inspiration of people through education, culture and tourism. The museum, governed by the South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture, opened 12 years ago today and is visited by thousands of South Africans and international tourist every year as one of South African’s most significant historical institutions. In addition to exhibits dedicated to Mandela’s life and vision, the museum host youth leadership camps aimed at educating young people about human rights, democracy, and leadership skills. Mandela is now 93 years old and lives in Qunu, South African near the museum.