FATHERLESS CHILDREN STORY 003
by Winsome Solo
When the boy was 9, his father died of tuberculosis. He was sent to live with a strict uncle. His uncle sent him to boarding school. He did so well that by the time he was 16, he was ready for college.
Later, when his uncle wanted him to enter into an arranged marriage, he ran off to the country's biggest city, where he found work in a law office. He decided to study to become a lawyer. During this time, he also met people who were working to change the nation's racial separatist laws, called apartheid. Under these laws, people who were deemed to be "black" or "colored" did not have the same rights as people who were considered to be "white".
While participating in peaceful demonstrations and protests against these unfair laws, the young man was arrested and charged with treason. This led him to decide to give up peaceful resistance. He started an armed branch of the African National Congress (ANC).
He led a campaign of sabotage bombings to try and force the government to stop its discrimination. The government sent him to prison for committing terrorist activities.
He spent 27 years of his life in prison, but while he was there, his reputation as an activist against unfair laws continued to grow. In 1985, the president of his country offered him a pardon if he would publically announce that he would no longer use violence. He replied, "Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts." He stayed in prison.
Times and attitudes were changing, however. There were people around the world who decried apartheid, and much public pressure. The next president was more sympathetic and released him. Both he and the president who freed him later would be awarded a joint Nobel Peace Prize.
The former prisoner then led his political party, the ANC, in negotiations that resulted in his country's first election in which all races were able to vote. His party won the election, and as party leader he was made president of the country in 1994.
Because he was already 75 when he took office, he retired after only one term to do international social work. But it was enough time for him to have presided over his nation's historic transition from minority government to democracy, and to earn international acclaim for his skill in bringing together the people of his country.
This freedom fighter said
"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others".
He has been called South Africa's "Washington and Lincoln rolled into one". The United Nations General Assembly declared his birthday a holiday. This now world-famous leader is
Nelson Mandela, a boy from a "fatherless home".
The term "fatherless" ("fatherlessness" or "father-absent") is used in this series as it is in research and "father absence" policy rhetoric by the U.S. government, DHHS, the National Fatherhood Initiative, U.S. states in connection with child custody law and policy, and various family values and fatherhood policy and lobbying groups. The effects of father absence can be seen in the fatherless children stories. Citations to research and studies on the effects of father-absence can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
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