Long Walk to Freedom

One reviewer of the book “Long Walk to Freedom” wrote:

“This is the written life of one of the absolute greatest world leaders who ever lived. I had the pleasure of visiting Robben Island, where most of the tour guides were, like Mandela, political prisoners under apartheid. Words cannot describe what it felt like to actually stand inside of the jail cell that Mandela occupied. What is even more incredible is that, looking back, the man was not the least bit bitter or angry about what he went through (and who could blame him if he were?); in fact, he invited his former jailers to his 1994 inauguration as South Africa’s first black president.

If after reading this book you do not come away with a greater sense of admiration and respect for this outstanding human being, then you are not human.”

Another wrote:

“Please allow yourself a moment to Think before you turn the first page of this manuscript: Think about your name; Think about your family; Think about the warmth of sunlight on your skin; Think about the gift you have to think; Think about things you love and tastes you cherish most; Think about someone you would never wish to live without; and then Think for just a moment, about the cause for which you’d be willing to sacrifice all of the above and so much more for a period of indescribable sufferance of spirit-breaking duress. Such strength of mind is perhaps too rare for most of us to even contemplate, however welcome now to the mind that could.

This manuscript is one of the most important pieces of literature ever laid to ink – cherish it and use it to make your own world a little wiser.”

Long Walk to Freedom

Long Walk to Freedom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What has this book meant to you and how has impacted how you view your trip to South Africa?

9 thoughts on “Long Walk to Freedom

  1. A Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela, is probably the first autobiography I have ever read that I really enjoyed reading. Not only is the subject matter of the book captivating and exciting, but the way NM writes is very elegant and sometimes even humorous. He doesn’t just include the important events in history, and writes his autobiography like he would write a book: introducing and building the characters in a way that helps the reader’s attention not fall away.
    A great example of character development, which includes a bit of humor, is when NM, Tefu, and Gaetsewe were in jail on Roben Island. This was when he had only been charged with inciting a strike and leaving the country without a passport. While in jail, NM received nightly tobacco and sandwiches from a “Coloured” warder, and although NM did not smoke, he gave the tobacco to his two friends, Tefu and Gaetsewe. Tefu smoked a lot and would sometimes smoked it in one night and had none for the next day, because of this Tefu thought NM was giving him less. He demanded to get the same amount and long story short, Tefu almost scared the warder away. NM decided to not give him any tobacco that night, but was aroused in the night by Tefu, who is an extremely difficult person, saying, “ ‘Nelson,’ he said, speaking softly, ‘you have hit me in a weak spot. You have deprived me of my tobacco. I am an old man. I have suffered for my commitment to my people. You are the leader here in jail, and you are punishing me like this. It is not fair Nelson.’” (347) It is mostly funny because in any other circumstance, Tefu was the type of person to spit in the face of someone punishing him, but because he didn’t have his tobacco his defenses broke down. It was sections like this that really made me laugh and continue the book with enjoyment.
    It does not surprise me that the people began to revolt and take action against the government, even though their lives were at risk because of how ruthless the Nationalist Party’s government could be. In NM’s own words, “History shows that penalties do not deter men when their conscience is aroused, nor will they deter my people, or the colleagues with whom I have worked before.” (332) What really surprises me is how the African people waited so long to turn to violence. In a government which has no value for your life, it seems natural to have no value for the lives of those in the government. It amazes me how the freedom fighters, time and time again, try to make common ground with the government. The whole stance of the government was out rightly racist, using slogans such as, “Die kaffir op sy plek (The nigger in his place), Die koelies uit die land (The coolies out of the country), The white man must always remain boss, and much more. (110) Again and again NM’s dedication to non-violence, and to the cause, astounds me. Part of this is probably due to NM’s view that, “to be a freedom fighter one must suppress many of the personal feelings that make one feel like a separate individual rather than part of a mass movement.”
    NM and many of his colleagues do this exceptionally well. A perfect example is during the Riviona trial. “we were not concerned with getting off or lessining our punishment, but with having the trial strengthen the cause for which we were all struggling – at whatever the cost to ourselves.” (360) This is evident when NM decided to make a statement from the dock, which was risky because anything he said relating to his own innocence would be discounted by the judge. Getting off the penalty was not their most important goal, and they wanted to start the case off with a statement of their politics and ideals. (361) Another example is when the decided not to appeal, even if they received the death sentence. This was because they believed, “an appeal would undermine the stance they had taken.”
    Another thing I really admired about NM is how he changed his views with how he was growing as a person. He went from admiring the white man and the western idea of being “civilized,” to being against the white man, Indians, and Communists. Then as he grew even more in his views, he accepted all people, and their common goal for equality. Or how at first he saw himself as a Xhosa first, then began to see how all Africans were tied together. At the beginning of the book he continuously states what he did or thought, and then references that he still had much to learn. For example, there is one part in which NM had only just arrived in Johannesburg, and he realizes that his outlook and worldviews started to change. He viewed his younger self as, “a naïve and parochial fellow who had seen very little of the world.” He then says, “I now believed I was seeing things as they were. That too was an illusion.”
    I also really like how he goes into detail about the revelations he had that really started to change how he saw things. At one point, he talked to a Sotho queen and she replies to him in Sesotho, the language of the Sotho and Tswana people. He did not understand and she replies, “What kind of lawyer and leader will you be who cannot speak the language of your own people.” After this interaction, NM says, “I again realized that we were not different people with separate languages; we were one people, with different languages.” (84)
    Overall, this book is very interesting, exciting, educating, and profound, but the quote I liked the best was one spoken by NM to a warder during his jail time after he was charged with sabotage. At that point in time, sabotage could easily be punished with the death sentence. After all people were being given life sentences for much less. The warder, knowing NM had the possibility of receiving death sentence, said, “Mandela, you don’t have to worry about sleep… You are going to sleep for a long, long time.” He waited a moment, and then said, “All of us, you included, are going to sleep for a long, long time.” (350) I found this one of the most profound quotes in this book because this statement transcends all barriers that might separate human beings. In this moment, NM says something that doesn’t have to deal with himself, politics, racism, Africa, or anything like that, but about the fait that awaits every human being.

  2. Nelson Mandela’s autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom shows us the powerful journey that one man made from humble beginnings to greatness. The road was not one filled with ease or no obstacles but rather a unique one filled with trials and tribulations. With this book we see the determination and patience of Nelson Mandela unfold before our eyes. One of the major things I was interesting in learning about was the apartheid in South Africa and how it affected the region. As is mostly common knowledge Nelson Mandela was a major if not the major key figure in helping to end the apartheid in South Africa. We see that his early beginnings in his tribe helped shape him to become the leader head figure perfect for the coming change. His march for equality and respect was one that took him through 27 years of imprisonment to being the President of South Africa. His spent so much time in there and yet came out ready to lead his people towards the correct path with no anger or malice in his heart. Events like this shaped Nelson Mandela into the ideal role model to shape and change South Africa. His idea that hating others because of their differences is immoral and wrong was the driving force and message he tried to convey to his country. This lesson was something that he used to try and correct the corrupt government that ran rampant. It was not only a matter or using his law degree to help change the government, but also his leadership skills to change the nature of the people so that the hate would be changed from the root of the tribes all the way to the highest government official.

    Nelson Mandela’s efforts, and those of comrades, have directly resulted in a positive change throughout South Africa and has been an inspiration to everyone around the world. Reading this book has only furthered my want to see this country. We can paint a picture of the scenery from his words but to be able to actually witness it with our own eyes will be a sight. It will be very interesting to see the progress that has been made and is continuing even in the absence of Mandela from the Presidency. It will also be very interesting to actually go to the memorable places and learn the history and compare it to that of our own struggles here in the United States with inequality and of that around the world.

  3. Long Walk to Freedom is very well written manuscript of one man’s trials and tribulations in pursuit of a worthy cause. It is the amazing account of the troubling ways of South Africa and the life experiences of the man who set out to change it. Before reading a Long Walk to Freedom, I did not know much about Nelson Mandela; I knew that he was once the president of South Africa and that he was a well respected leader in world history, but I didn’t know what he had accomplished. After reading his autobiography, I have developed a newfound respect for him. If I were placed in a situation such as he was in I would only hope that I would have the courage to persevere and see my ideas become reality. Nelson Mandela’s life is an inspirational one and is the ultimate example of strength, courage, and the ability of one man to give up so much for the good of his people.
    It is interesting to see how Mandela developed through all of his experiences and what they taught him. He started out as a young man trying to make it and obtained the ability to practice law only after failing many exams. Through hard work and determination, he was able to start his own practice that was the first solely black practice in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was also a strong leader, shown through his ability to gather people together and get them behind the cause of fighting the presence of apartheid. He tried to arrange the delivery of guns from China, but it ended up failing to pan out. This led to him being banned from the African National Congress. After this he was arrested for treason along with many others, but was acquitted of the charges. He is then arrested once more when the African National Congress is outlawed and he had to defend himself in court; he was found not guilty. Mandela was then arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison, but evidence was found and he was convicted of sabotage and was sentenced to life. It amazes me of his composure and persistence he had. He was focused on his beliefs and would not back down. He was determined to not appeal his conviction because he didn’t want to undermine the cause. He was even offered freedom if he would renounce the violence that the African National Congress was commencing, but he refused. He is the strongest person I have ever seen to deal with all that he has dealt with and continued to focus on his beliefs and not falter. His perseverance and courage is what lead to his success and the freedom of South Africa.
    Nelson Mandela’s story was an inspiring one and did not just show his struggles, but also showed the struggles of apartheid throughout South Africa. His determination and dedication to his ideals is a true inspiration and shows that those traits are key aspects to success. After reading Long Walk to Freedom I have developed a new appreciation for the history of South Africa and its newly found freedom. I am looking forward to experiencing this land enriched with history and to see first hand the legacy and work that Nelson Mandela accomplished.

  4. The novel, Long Walk To Freedom, has shown me how to be content with my life. Despite the obstacles Mandela faced, he continued to be content. He didn’t let anger and bitterness consume him and have an effect on his life. I love that he is open with sharing his life stories as a child and adult. I have read autobiographies before, but this is one of my favorites. Mandela writes with grace and dignity. Mandela was brave when everyone else was weak. That displayed leadership toward his community and country. That is what enjoyed the most. Throughout the novel, Mandela views changed as he experienced, witnessed, and grown into the man he is today. After reading the novel, I view the trip to Cape Town, South Africa as testimony to his some of the stories Mandela shared with us. I excited to see bits of pieces of his walk to freedom.
    I hope by reading this novel, I will continue to be happy as I walk to my freedom. Nelson Mandela was a courageous and wise man, but hero to many

  5. After reading the book A Long Walk to Freedom, I have so much more respect for Nelson Mandela. What better man to lead a country? He has literally been through it all and remained humble every step of the way. It was through his humility that I gained the most respect for him because as I was reading this autobiography all of his accomplishments were not thrown in your face with arrogance when they definitely could have been. I felt like everything Nelson Mandela did was out of pride for his country. Numerous people tried to bring him down and stop him from making the equality changes he is so passionate about. Nothing stopped him! Not even prison time! He remained humble and passionate. He was never bitter just kept on going. That speaks volumes of him!

    I admire Nelson Mandela. I can’t wait to see the country he loves so much and described so heavily in his book for myself! Reading this book made me so much more excited than I already am for the trip!

  6. Before beginning Long Walk to Freedom, I joked with Wyatt about its length. “A 600+ page autobiography? Nelson Mandela must have thought Nelson Mandela was pretty cool.” As perhaps the most important individual in the history of modern-day South Africa, I knew that learning more about his life was essential to maximizing my experience in Cape Town. Though my comments were, of course, completely in jest, it made me cognizant of the fact that I possessed only a cursory knowledge of Mandela’s lifelong journey. My knowledge was based merely on what I learned through my education. As a result, I was aware of his Nobel Peace Prize worthy efforts in the fight to end apartheid, but not in great detail. Reading Long Walk to Freedom gave me a new appreciation for Mandela and his contemporaries as well as a greater understanding of the oppressive state of twentieth century South Africa. The bravery and persistence exhibited by these freedom fighters during their battle for equality was nothing short of historic.

    One of the most interesting things I found during ANC’s Defiance Campaign was their incorporation of Gandhian principles. When discussing how to proceed with the campaign, it was initially agreed upon that the campaign should emphasize nonviolence and seek to conquer through the conversion of others. In fact, Mandela and other campaign organizers sought the advice of Manilal Gandhi, Mahatma’s son. Apart from putting Mandela’s early efforts in context with other world events, I thought this illustrated Mandela and the ANC’s noble attempt to bring about change in a peaceful way. For several years, Mandela and the ANC stuck to their nonviolent mission.
    However, after the their efforts yielded immaterial results, and the ruling government showed no signs of relenting, the group had no choice but to reevaluate their strategy. After the Antiremoval Campaign in 1955, as a result of widespread bannings by the government, Mandela and the ANC realized that they had no choice but to explore an armed and violent resistance. He explained, “A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor” (166).

    Though anyone reading Long Walk to Freedom would likely takeaway profound lessons and inspiration, I believe it holds extra significance to our group as we head to South Africa. As we experience Cape Town and the surrounding areas, each of us will be reminded of the great changes the country has undertaken. As we tour modern-day South Africa, we will remember that only a short time ago it was a very different place.

    On a personal level, I thought it was fascinating and very humbling reading about Nelson Mandela’s life and struggles. He experienced so many trials and challenges in his life that I could never relate to. He recalls, “Under apartheid, a black man lived a shadowy life between legality and illegality…to be a black man in South Africa meant not to trust anything, which was not unlike living underground for one’s entire life” (267). By recognizing a desperate need for change, and possessing the courage and will to act, Nelson Mandela changed the world. A humbling reminder of just how fortunate I am, Long Walk to Freedom certainly lived up to its acclamation, providing me with a detailed account of Nelson Mandela’s life journey as well as facilitating personal growth and reflection.

  7. While my parents prepared for my birth in May of 1990, they most likely overlooked the news detailing that Nelson Mandela was leading talks between the government of South Africa and the African National Congress (ANC). The world was getting smaller and there was so much news that year that attracted international attention. The Cold War was ending, the Soviet Union was collapsing, East and West Germany were preparing to unite, and it was the beginning of the end of Apartheid in South Africa.

    Nelson Mandela had finally been released earlier that year after 27 years of imprisonment at the age of 72. Most would think it a perfect time for him to retire and live peacefully. Instead, Mandela continued his journey to form a new government.

    And what a journey Mr. Mandela had. From his days as a young tribal shepherd dressed in a blanket, to a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Nelson Mandela seemed to live a life of contrasts. He was born as Rolihlahla and his father was a tribal leader that presided over ritual slaughtering of goats and calves. Rolihlahla’s mother was the ‘right hand wife’ and he followed her example in becoming a Christian, which led him to being the first in his families’ long tribal history to receive an education. On that first day of school, his teacher gave him the English name ‘Nelson’, a name that would eventually be synonymous with South Africa.

    The journey led Nelson to friendships with Communists and Indians. After his release, he developed alliances with world leaders who were also often in conflict with each other. After touring Africa, he attended an anti-apartheid concert held in his honor in London. Mr. Mandela was entertained by musicians that he was not familiar with such as Neil Young, Jackson Browne and many others. His cause was now the world’s cause and this concert was held in the country that supported apartheid.

    Such international attention, yet when Mr. Mandela returned to his village, he found that much had changed. The environment seemed polluted and the residents seemed much poorer than he remembered, but they were now aware of the struggle of the South African people. He left the poverty and went on a six-week tour of Europe and North America. He traveled from Harlem to meeting with President Bush in Washington D.C.

    Nelson Mandela’s autobiography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ ends with the inauguration of, and he refers to more of the contrasts of his journey as he describes how two groups of South Africa sang each others anthems; a vision that displays the efforts and willingness of many to move forward in history.

  8. Reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography entitled “Long Walk to Freedom” was eye opening. Having very little prior knowledge about South Africa, this book shed new light on how blessed we are as Americans. Actually reading Mandela’s first hand account of the tough life he endured as a child and as an adult made it seem like I was actually there. The vivid details, and shocking stories were hard to believe. The lack of opportunities available to the natives held their communities back in time.

    Nelson Mandela’s story is truly inspiring. He was determined to become successful and receive his BA, since he was the only child to be given the opportunity to receive a proper education. He achieved so much while following the rules of oppression even though he did not agree with them. His story sets a great example of defending your right to a better life. For him to have the determination and discipline to suffer for his people and family was inspirational.

    After reading “Long Walk to Freedom” I am grateful and appreciative. I am very glad I read his autobiography before traveling to South Africa so I can experience my trip down there to the fullest. I am looking forward to visiting the townships to truly see the harsh conditions the oppressed dealt with and lived in. Also visiting Robben Island will be a highlight. Visiting and experiencing Nelson Mandela’s homeland will be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

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