On This Day

On May 9, 1994, South Africa’s newly elected Parliament chose Nelson Mandela to be the first president of the post-apartheid era.

The New York Times wrote, “The power that had belonged to whites since they first settled on this cape 342 years ago passed today to a Parliament as diverse as any in the world, a cast of proud survivors who began their work by electing Nelson Mandela to be the first black president of South Africa.”

Mandela: The Miracle Maker

The extraordinary life of the man who liberated South Africa—and then kept the country from falling apart.

Nelson Mandela, who died December 5, refused to be thought of as a saint. “I never was one,” he insisted—“even on the basis of an earthly definition of a saint as a sinner who keeps trying.” He wasn’t just being modest. He had a weakness for fine clothes and good-looking women, and he certainly was no pacifist. But a halo was the last thing Mandela needed. He spent half a century wrestling South Africa’s white-minority rulers to the negotiating table, and when he finally got them there, he had to be a hard bargainer, not a holy man.

Mandela: The Miracle Maker

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

Nelson Mandela

Long Walk To Freedom, 1994