Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (born July 18, 1918) was the first
President of South Africa to be elected in fully-representative
democratic elections. Before his presidency, Mandela was a prominent
anti-apartheid activist and leader of the African National Congress
(ANC), and was imprisoned on a conviction for sabotage after he went
underground and began the ANC's armed struggle.
He was released from
prison after serving 27 years of his sentence. Following his release
from prison in 1990, his switch to a policy of reconciliation and
negotiation helped lead the transition to multi-racial democracy in
South Africa. Since the end of apartheid, he has been widely praised,
even among white South Africans and former opponents.