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Nelson Mandela Quotations

Updated on July 21, 2016

Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest and most influential figures of the 20th century.He was born in 1918 in South Africa where he has dedicated his life to fighting against apartheid (racial separation).

Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to achieving freedom for his people. His vision was of a democratic South Africa where everyone would have equal rights. Despite many setbacks, Mandela never faltered in his fight to achieve that goal.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 for plotting to overthrow the government and he spent 27 long years in prison for his beliefs, following his release in 1990 became leader of the African National Congress, he astounded the world by his lack of bitterness and his wish to forgive and be reconciled.

Mandela is a man of enormous moral integrity. In court and in prison, his dignity and refusal to compromise his principles won him respect not only from others in the liberation movement but also from his hardest opponents.

In 1993 Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his long struggle to end apartheid in South Africa `and the following year was elected the first black President of South Africa.

"The struggle is my life.  I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.
"The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.

Through his words and actions, Nelson Mandela has been embraced world wide as an inspiring symbol of courage, hope and reconciliation. This collection of quotations of Nelson Mandela brings together some of his thoughts that conveys his warmth and wisdom, his words are certain to inspire all who read them.

On Being African

  • Teach the children that Africans are not one iota inferior to Europeans.“From his seminal ‘No Easy Walk to Freedom” speech 21 August 1953.
  • The lack of human dignity experienced by Africans is the direct result of the policy of white supremacy. Spoken from the dock at the Rivonia Treason Trial 20 April 1964, which sent him to prison for 27 long years.
  • All of us, descendants of Africa, know only too well that racism demeans the victims and dehumanizes its perpetrators.
  • We are rising from the ashes of war. He said this while presenting the Africa Peace award of the war-torn country of Mozambique in November 1997.

On History

  • History shows that penalties do not deter men when their conscience is aroused. Blaming things on the past does not make them better. The past is a rich resource on which we can draw in order to make decisions for the future.
  • The purpose of studying history is not to deride human action, nor to weep over it or to hate it but to understand it and then to learn from it as we contemplate our future.
  • It is the dictate of history to bring to the fore the kind of leader who seize the moment who cohere the wishes and aspiration of the oppressed

On Leadership

  • When you want to get the cattle to move in a certain direction, you stand at the back with a stick and then you get a few of the cleverer cattle to go to the front and move in the direction that you want them to go. The rest of the cattle follow the few more energetic cattle in the front, but you are really guiding them from the back. Nelson Mandela then added: That is how a leader should do his work.
  • A leadership commits a crime against its own people if it hesitates to sharpen its political weapons which have become less effective.
  • A leader who relies on authority to solve problems is bound to come to grief.
  • It is the fate of leadership to be misunderstood: for historians, academics, writers and journalists to reflect great lives according to their ow subject canon.
  • The mark of great leaders is the ability to understand the context in which they are operating and act accordingly.
  • It is a mistake to think that a single individual can unite the country.

On Struggle

  • Struggle without discipline can lead to anarchy.
  • Struggle without unity enables the other side to pick us off one by one.
  • No struggle can be waged effectively in isolation.
  • A willingness to make sacrifices for a loftier purpose was the unwritten code of the struggle.
  • Running through the struggle like a golden thread is one motif- the indomitable human spirit and a moving capacity for self-sacrifice and discipline.

Creative quotes from Nelson Mandela

On Racism

  • Racism pollutes the atmosphere of human relations and poisons the minds of the backward the bigoted and the prejudiced.
  • We must ensure that color, race and gender become only a God-given gift to each one of us and not an indelible mark or attribute that accords a special status to any.
  • Racism is blight on the human conscience.
  • Racism must be consciously combated and not discreetly tolerated.

On Negotiation

  • Concessions are inherent in negotiations.
  • When you negotiate you must be prepared to compromise.
  • Negotiated solutions can be found even to conflicts that have come to seem intractable and that such solutions emerge when those who have been divided reach out to find the common ground.
  • Only free man can negotiate.

On Peace

  • Peace and democracy go hand and hand.
  • It is not easy to talk about peace to people who are mourning each day.
  • Peace and prosperity, tranquility and security are only possible if these are enjoyed by all without discrimination

On People

  • Language, culture and religion are important indicators of identity.
  • Justice and liberty must be our tool, prosperity and happiness our weapon.
  • It is in the character of growth that we should learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.
  • The suffering of the people of any single country affects all of us no matter where we find ourselves.

On Reconciliation

  • Reconstruction goes hand in hand with reconciliation.
  • We can easily be enticed o read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice.

On Thoughts

  • Thinking is one of the most important weapons in dealing with problems.

On Work

  • Jobs, jobs and jobs are the dividing line in many families between a decent life and a wretched existence.
  • Workers need a living wage- and the right to join union of their own choice and to participate in determining policies that affect their lives.

On Freedom

  • Too many have suffered for the love of freedom
  • Only free men can negotiate : prisoners cannot enter into contracts.
  • No power on earth can stop an oppressed people determined to win their freedom.
  • There is no such thing as part freedom.
  • We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom.
  • To overthrow oppression is the highest aspiration of every free man.
  • A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred.
  • To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the lives of others.


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    • sheilamarie78 profile image


      4 years ago from British Columbia

      Thanks for putting together this collection of quotes from a fascinating man.

    • Colleen Swan profile image

      Colleen Swan 

      5 years ago from County Durham

      Lovely article about this great man. I love reading quotes; they can be inspiring and challenging.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      5 years ago from Philippines

      I always knew about Mandela and his life. I even saw a movie about him. But to be able to go through this list of quotations is like hearing his voice for the first time. It's like hearing greatness. Thank God the words are still here for others like me, even if the man is no longer with us.

    • Colleen Swan profile image

      Colleen Swan 

      6 years ago from County Durham

      A sad loss, but his words live forever. Nice hub. voted up.

    • iguidenetwork profile image


      6 years ago from Austin, TX

      Awesome collection of Nelson Mandela quotes. I agree with what he implied that blacks shouldn't consider themselves inferior to whites. All people are created equal.

      He is indeed a symbol of equality, justice, freedom and peace. He will be missed but his legacy shall not be forgotten.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 

      6 years ago from Pune, India

      Hew was one of greatest leaders in the world. I am very sad to know the News of his death.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      As a South African to me Nelson Mandela has shown the world what he strongly knows and feels and his words are so meaningful and has taught many about life in the apartheid country.

    • seanorjohn profile image


      6 years ago

      A truly inspiring man. You have put together a great collection of his quotes.Voted up and interesting.


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