Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa and Anti-Apartheid Activist, Passes at 95

December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela has died. The former president of South Africa, and a hero in the struggle against apartheid, was 95. The current President of South Africa Jacob Zuma announced Mandela's death today, saying the nation had entered the moment of its great sorrow. Zuma says a state funeral is being planned to remember the man who he calls a father to all South Africans. Zuma says South Africans must continue to strive towards Nelson Mandela's vision for a united South Africa and a better world.

You can listen to President Obama's speech about Nelson Mandela, here.

Nelson Mandela spoke to a crowd of nearly 50,000 in Detroit’s Tiger Stadium on June 28th, 1990. That was just a few months after his release from prison. The day was filled with celebration as Detroit luminaries, such as Mayor Coleman Young, UAW President Owen Bieber and singers Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder honored Mandela. In fact, Mandela quoted Motown artist Marvin Gaye during his speech. Here’s an excerpt of his remarks from that day.

When Nelson Mandela arrived in Detroit shortly after he was freed from prison in 1990 – a contingent of dignitaries was there to greet him. One of them was Congressman John Conyers. The Detroit Democrat tells WDET’s Quinn Klinefelter that the first person Mandela approached after arriving at Detroit Metro Airport was not a public official, but rather a frail figure in a wheelchair – civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks.

One of the people who help facilitate nelson Mandela’s trip to Detroit in 1990 was Owen Bieber. Bieber was President of the United Auto Workers union at the time. He says the UAW was among the many organizations in the U.S. placing pressure on South African officials to end Apartheid and release Mandela from prison. Bieber says he also worked with U.S. officials, including Secretary of State George Schulz, to pressure Africa to change.

When Nelson Mandela spoke to an overflow crowd at Tiger Stadium in 1990, he made it clear he felt a kinship with union workers. Wayne State University Reuther Library archivist Mike Smith tells WDET’s Quinn Klinefelter that Mandela had a long history with organized labor groups in the U.S.