Activist Randall Robinson Looks Back on Nelson Mandela’s Life 100 Years After His Birth

“He was a special, very special, human being.”

Jake Neher/WDET

Wednesday would have been the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela.

The anti-apartheid revolutionary spent 27 years in a South African prison for his freedom fighting, and then emerged to become the country’s president and an inspiration to millions.

Mandela’s story is one of struggle, oppression, insurmountable odds — and ultimately justice.

His death at age 95 in 2013 was met with both sorrow and celebration.

Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson revisits that celebration of Mandela’s life on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

To help do that, Henderson speaks with a man who played an outsized role in telling the American public about Mandela and his story. He’s a man who was also instrumental in the U.S. opposition to apartheid in South Africa.

Randall Robinson is an author and activist, the founder of TransAfrica, which led anti-apartheid efforts here in America. He had many interactions with Mandela during his life. He is in town for the Charles H. Wright Museum’s Centennial Birthday Celebration of Nelson Mandela, which takes place Wednesday at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

“I’m going to talk about Mandela’s history, about the special kind of man he was,” says Robinson. “And the sort of confluence of leadership of what Mandela thought, what (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) thought, what (Dr. Charles H. Wright) thought. These were similar men with a sternness of leadership capability.”

Robinson says he’ll also talk about the personal Nelson Mandela, who he describes as “charming.”

“He was a special, very special, human being.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


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