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Today in History, June 10th

Today in History, June 10th

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  • AmyW AmyW's Avatar 06-12-06 | 08:34 AM
    June 10, 1980[/SIZE]

    [SIZE="3"]In South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) makes public a statement by
    Nelson Mandela, the long imprisoned leader of the anti-apartheid movement. The
    message, smuggled out of Robben Island prison under great risk, read, "UNITE!
    THE ARMED STRUGGLE WE SHALL CRUSH APARTHEID!"Mandela, born in 1918, was the son
    of the chief of the Xhosa-speaking Tembu people. Instead of succeeding his
    father as chief, Mandela went to university and became a lawyer. In 1944, he
    joined the ANC, a black political organization dedicated to winning rights for
    the black majority in white-ruled South Africa. In 1948, the racist National
    Party came to power, and apartheid--South Africa's institutionalized system of
    white supremacy and racial segregation--became official government policy. With
    the loss of black rights under apartheid, black enrollment in the ANC rapidly
    grew. Mandela became one of the ANC's leaders and in 1952 was made deputy
    national president of the ANC. He organized nonviolent strikes, boycotts,
    marches, and other acts of civil disobedience.After the massacre of peaceful
    black demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960, Mandela helped organize a
    paramilitary branch of the ANC to engage in acts of sabotage against the white
    minority government. He was tried for and acquitted of treason in 1961 but in
    1962 was arrested again for illegally leaving the country. Convicted and
    sentenced to five years at Robben Island Prison, he was put on trial again in
    1963 with seven other ANC members who were arrested at Rivonia in possession of
    a store of weapons. Charged with sabotage, treason, and violent conspiracy,
    Mandela admitted to many of the charges against him and eloquently defended his
    militant activities during the trial. On June 12, 1964, he was sentenced to life
    imprisonment.Mandela spent the first 18 of his 27 years in jail at the brutal
    Robben Island Prison. He was confined to a small cell without a bed or plumbing
    and was forced to do hard labor in a quarry. Once a year, he was allowed to meet
    with a visitor for 30 minutes, and once every six months he could write and
    receive a letter. At first, he was only allowed to exchange letters with his
    family, and these letters were read and censored by prison officials. Later he
    was allowed to write to friends and associates, but any writing of a political
    nature was forbidden. With the help of fellow prisoners and his visitors,
    Mandela smuggled out statements and letters to spark the continuing
    anti-apartheid movement. A 500-page autobiography, manually miniaturized into 50
    pages, was smuggled out by a departing prisoner in 1976. The original manuscript
    of the autobiography, buried in a garden, was discovered by the prison warden
    soon after. As punishment, Mandela and three others lost their study rights for
    four years.Through it all, Mandela's resolve remained unbroken, and he led a
    movement of civil disobedience at the prison that coerced South African
    officials into drastically improving conditions on Robben Island. In 1982, he
    was moved to Pollsmoor Prison on the mainland, and in 1988 to a cottage, where
    he lived under house arrest.In 1989, F.W. de Klerk became South African
    president and set about dismantling apartheid. De Klerk lifted the ban on the
    ANC, suspended executions, and on February 11, 1990, ordered the release of
    Nelson Mandela after 27 years as a political prisoner. Mandela subsequently led
    the ANC in its negotiations with the minority government for an end to apartheid
    and the establishment of a multiracial government. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk
    were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On April 26, 1994, more than 22
    million South Africans turned out to cast ballots in the country's first-ever
    multiracial parliamentary elections. An overwhelming majority chose Mandela and
    the ANC to lead the country, and a "national unity" coalition was formed with de
    Klerk's National Party and the Zulus' Inkatha Freedom Party. On May 10, Mandela
    was sworn in as the first black president of South Africa.As president, Mandela
    established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights
    violations under apartheid and introduced numerous initiatives designed to
    improve the living standards of South Africa's black population. In 1996, he
    presided over the enactment of a new South African constitution. Mandela retired
    from politics in June 1999 at the age of 80. He was succeeded as president by
    Thabo Mbeki of the ANC. Mandela, admired by people around the world, continues
    to advocate for human rights and peace.

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