Arrested in 1962 as South Africa’s apartheid regime intensified its brutal campaign against political opponents, forty-four-year-old lawyer and African National Congress activist Nelson Mandela had no idea that he would spend the next twenty-seven years in jail. During his 10,052 days of incarceration, the future leader of South Africa wrote a multitude of letters to unyielding prison authorities, fellow activists, government officials, and, most memorably, to his courageous wife, Winnie, and his five children. Now, 255 of these letters, many of which have never been published, provide exceptional insight into how Mandela maintained his inner spirits while living in almost complete isolation, and how he engaged with an outside world that became increasingly outraged by his plight.
Organized chronologically and divided by the four venues in which he was held as a sentenced prisoner, The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela begins in Pretoria Local Prison, where Mandela was held following his 1962 trial. In 1964, Mandela was taken to Robben Island Prison, where a stark existence was lightened only by visits and letters from family. After eighteen years, Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison, a large complex outside of Cape Town with beds and better food, but where he and four of his comrades were confined to a rooftop cell, apart from the rest of the prison population. Finally, Mandela was taken to Victor Verster Prison in 1988, where he was held until his release on February 11, 1990.
With accompanying facsimiles of some of his actual letters, this landmark volume reveals how Mandela, a lawyer by training, advocated for prisoners’ human rights. It reveals him to be a loving father, who wrote to his daughter, “I sometimes wish science could invent miracles and make my daughter get her missing birthday cards and have the pleasure of knowing that her Pa loves her,” aware that photos and letters he sent had simply disappeared.
More painful still are the letters written in 1969, when Mandelaforbidden from attending the funerals of his mother and his son Thembiwas reduced to consoling family members through correspondence. Yet, what emerges most powerfully is Mandela’s unfaltering optimism: “Honour belongs to those who never forsake the truth even when things seem dark & grim, who try over and & over again, who are never discouraged by insults, humiliation & even defeat.”
Whether providing unwavering support to his also-imprisoned wife or outlining a human-rights philosophy that resonates today, The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela reveals the heroism of a man who refused to compromise his moral values in the face of extraordinary punishment. Ultimately, these letters position Mandela as one of the most inspiring figures of the twentieth century.
From The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela
“A new world will be won not by those who stand at a distance with their arms folded, but by those who are in the arena, whose garments are torn by storms & whose bodies are maimed in the course of contest.”
“I am convinced that floods of personal disaster can never drown a determined revolutionary nor can the cumulus of misery that accompanies tragedy suffocate him.”
“My respect for human beings is based, not on the colour of a man’s skin nor authority he may wield, but purely on merit.”
“A good pen can also remind us of the happiest moments in our lives, bring noble ideas into our dens, our blood & our souls. It can turn tragedy into hope & victory.”
|Publisher:||Liveright Publishing Corporation|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.70(d)|
About the Author
Sahm Venter is a former Associated Press reporter (who covered and was witness to Mandela’s release from prison in 1990) and a longtime researcher. She has co-edited several previous books, including Notes to the Future: Words of Wisdom with Sello Hatang and Doug Abrams); 491 Days: Prisoner Number 1323/69 by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, with Swati Dlamini; and Something to Write Home About: Reflections from the Heart of History, with Claude Colart; and co-wrote Conversations with a Gentle Soul with the late anti-apartheid struggle hero, Ahmed Kathrada.
Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela was born in 1979 in Welkom, South Africa, close to the town of Brandfort to which her grandmother, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was banished by the apartheid regime. She works as a business developer and is a public speaker and a self-described serial entrepreneur. In 2017 she launched her luxury fashion range Swati by Roi Kaskara. She is the granddaughter of Nelson Mandela and Nomzamo Nobandla Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Table of Contents
Foreword Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela vii
A Note on The Letters xiii
Nelson Mandela's Prison Numbers xvii
Pretoria Local Prison, November 1962-May 1963 1
Robben Island Maximum Security Prison, May 1963-June 1963 9
Robben Island Maximum Security Prison, June 1964-March 1982 19
Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison, March 1982-August 1988 431
Tygerberg Hospital & Constantiaberg MediClinic, August-December 1988 503
Victor Verster Prison, December 1988-February 1990 511
Supplementary Information 573
Appendix A Glossary 574
Appendix B Prison Timeline 592
Appendix C Map of South Africa, c.1996 596
Letters and Collections 601
Permissions Acknowledgements 609