Nelson Mandela began life in 1918 in South Africa. He led armed resistance against apartheid, his native land’s entrenched system of brutal legal discrimination that guaranteed political and economic security for White South Africans and disenfranchisement and poverty for Blacks.

As a part of the African National Congress (ANC), Mandela found himself first a fugitive and then a prisoner. During his twenty seven years in jail, he became an international symbol of defiance against the brutality of South Africa’s racist regime.

Mandela was freed from prison in 1990. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize three years later. Shortly thereafter, he was elected the first Black president of a new South Africa, one now free of apartheid–if not entirely of its legacy–due in part to his efforts.

On this date: FEBRUARY 11, 1990 Nelson Mandela ~ (South African president and political activist) released from prison after 27 years