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African National Congress President Nelson Mandela salutes the crowd in Galeshewe Stadium near Kimberley, South Africa, before a forum on Feb. 25, 1994.
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Citizenship

5 Things Trevor Noah Wants You to Know About Nelson Mandela


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Nelson Mandela was a legendary champion for equality. He spent close to 30 years in prison because of this, but never gave up his fight against racial discrimination and oppression. This year, Global Citizen is honoring Mandela, who would have turned 100 years old on July 18. You can join us by taking action here to be the generation to end extreme poverty.

South African comedian Trevor Noah got serious for a moment — just a moment — about the legacy of his country’s first black head of state, Nelson Mandela, during The Daily Show on Wednesday. 

The revolutionary anti-apartheid leader would have turned 100 on July 18, and in honor of his birthday, Noah shared some surprising and inspirational facts about Mandela with his audience.

Take Action: Sign the Year of Mandela Declaration and Commit to Be the Generation to End Extreme Poverty


1. Nelson Mandela’s name was not Nelson.

Mandela’s given name was Rolihlahla, which colloquially means “troublemaker” in Xhosa. Mandela was the first in his family to attend school and at age 7, when he began classes, his teacher insisted he needed a Christian name. The name she chose for him was Nelson.

As Noah explains, at the time it was customary for South Africans and people from other African countries to adopt an English name that would be easier for foreigners in the colonies to pronounce.

2. Mandela was just 26 years old when he got into politics.

The ambitious 26-year-old joined the African National Congress (ANC), in large part to fight racial inequality. The ANC went on to become the ruling party of post-apartheid South Africa and is currently the party governing the country today.

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Read more: Obama's 4 Rules for People Who Want to Continue Nelson Mandela's Work

3. Mandela did not always advocate for a nonviolent approach to ending apartheid.

The harder the ANC fought for racial equality, the more oppressive the all-white government that ruled South Africa became.

“There are many people who feel that it is useful and futile for us to continue talking peace and nonviolence against a government whose reply is only savage attacks on an unarmed and defenseless people,” Mandela said in an interview in 1961.

A year later, he was arrested. He spent nearly three decades in prison and was finally released in 1990.

4. There have been several concerts in honor of Nelson Mandela.

The Global Citizen Festival Mandela 100, in proud partnership with the Motsepe Foundation, will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Dec. 2. 

But it is far from the first concert to be held in his honor.

Read More: Learn More About Global Citizen Festival Mandela 100

As Noah highlights, throughout the 1980s people concerts to champion racial equality and to call for Mandela to be set free. The biggest of these was the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert — also known as Freedomfest — in 1988, which was held in Wembley Stadium in London and broadcasted to more than 60 countries.

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Read more: 23 Nelson Mandela Quotes That Remind Us Ending Poverty Is Possible

5. Mandela is a legend because of what he did after gaining his freedom.

“Madiba,” as Mandela is affectionately called, became a global icon because of his struggle for freedom both for himself and his people. But he is a legend because he carried on the fight against oppression and racial inequality all his life.

“This was a man who grew up in a country steeped in racism, spent decades in prison fighting it, and then dedicated his life to a world of racial progress,” Noah said.

Rather than allowing anger over the injustices done to him to take over his life, Mandela channeled his fury into drive. His hatred for oppression became the fuel that powered his efforts to transform him country.


The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.

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