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Visit With Nelson Mandela

June 22nd, 2011

photo credit: Debby Yazbek/Nelson Mandela Foundation

Visit With Nelson Mandela

June 22, 2011 — An unplanned but symbolic meeting took place Tuesday in South Africa.

First Lady Michelle Obama, and her daughters, 12-year old, Malia, and 10-year old, Sasha, met with former South African leader Nelson Mandela.

Up until twenty years ago, South Africa’s government officially treated black people differently than white people, discriminating against black people. Black people weren’t allowed the same access to basic things like education, doctors, housing, and public places. This system of segregation (separating people into groups during daily life because of their race) was called apartheid (sounds like: apar-tide).

F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela led the movement to have equal rights and access for everyone. At one point he spent 27 years in prison for it. But, he succeeded and negotiated an end to apartheid, in 1990. This made it possible for Mr. Mandela to become South Africa’s first black president as well as its first democratically elected president four years later, in 1994.

He also won a Nobel Peace Prize, in 1993, for his role in ending apartheid. This was a shared award with then South African State President F. W. de Klerk. The award was as much for the peaceful way they went about trying to end apartheid as it was for ending it.

Tuesday’s meeting with the First Lady and her daughters was significant because President Obama is the United States’ first black president (President Obama was not on this trip but has met Mr. Mandela before).

Mr. Mandela is 92 years old now and his health isn’t strong anymore, but when he heard that Mrs. Obama was visiting at his Nelson Mandela Foundation, he called up and invited them over to his home.

 

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