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Nelson Mandela became an important figure in the ANC, helping set up and lead a section for young people called the ANC Youth League.He later travelled the country to gain support for non-violent protests against the National Party’s racists laws.They had far fewer rights, too – they weren’t even allowed to vote in elections!
South Africa is home to many different peoples and cultures – so much so that it’s been nicknamed the ‘rainbow nation’.
But, sadly, at the time that Nelson Mandela was growing up, there was a huge racial divide in the country.
Nelson studied hard at school and later attended the University of Fort Hare, the South African Native College.
He then moved to the city of Johannesburg to study law at the University of the Witwatersrand, before qualifying as a lawyer in 1942, aged 24.
And so in 1944 he joined the African National Congress (ANC) – a political group that strived for equal rights for whites and blacks.
In 1948 the South African government introduced a system called ‘apartheid’, which furthered racial divide in the country even more.
As President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela improved the living standards and facilities of South Africa’s black population, who had suffered for decades under apartheid.
He also worked hard to make South Africa a country of equality, where people of all race and colour lived together in peace.
White people ran the country, and they generally led privileged lives with good jobs, nice homes and access to good schools and healthcare.
Most black people, however, worked in low-paid jobs, and lived in poor communities with poor facilities.