Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela- Long Walk to Freedom Summary

Reading this first hand and beautifully written account of Nelson Mandela’s life is an extraordinary opportunity. Nelson Mandela, a South African freedom fighter and unfortunately a political prisoner for 27 years, his saga of eradicating the apartheid system from the country. The African National Congress struggled, and finally, Mandela was the first black president.

About Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was a political leader and anti-apartheid activist from South Africa. Mandela was elected president of South Africa after serving 27 years in prison for supporting anti-apartheid views. He was the country’s first black president and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa. Mandela has earned over 250 honors and is recognized universally as one of the most significant figures of the 20th century and an icon of democracy and social justice. Today, he is highly respected in South Africa. 


We hope this CBSE Class 10 English Long Walk to Freedom Summary provided students with a strong overview of the chapter. You can visit IMP’s website for more intriguing updates on CBSE and CBSE study material, as well as access to sample papers and question papers from previous years.

The Birth of the Mischievous Child – Summary

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in a petit village in South Africa’s Transkei region. He was named Rolihlahla by his father, which colloquially translated to “troublemaker” in their language. Mandela was born to a noble lineage. His father held the position of the chief of the Thembu tribe. In his childhood, Mandela was a herd boy looking after cattle and sheep. He mainly ate “mealies’ ‘ corn as his food. He attended a small one-room school in his village, often wearing his father’s cut-off pants secured by a string around the waist.

In his words- “My life, and that of most Xhosas…was shaped by custom, ritual, and taboo.”

Mandela’s father passed away when he was just nine and his family sent him to live with Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the Thembu’s acting regent in Mqhekezweni, “the great place,” Thembuland’s provincial capital. He received a better education for a black South African of his generation. He studied in a reputed college named Wesleyan college in Fort Beaufort, and at the University College of Fort Hare, in Alice. While he was a student, the regent tried to arrange his marriage to a daughter of a Thembu priest. He refused and ran away to Johannesburg.

His Journey to a Rebellion

Mandela started his career as a night watchman at Crown Mines. It was a local gold mine. He utilized subterfuge to get this job, lying about the approval he had gotten from the well-reputed regent. Mine officials learned the truth and told Mandela to return immediately to Mqhekezweni. Refusing to leave Johannesburg, Mandela stayed with a cousin for some time. Then he moved in with Reverend J. Mabutho, but after knowing his truth, the reverend arranged for him to stay with neighbors. 

Mandela went to work as a clerk for the law firm of Witkin, Sidelsky, and Eidelman and took correspondence courses from the University of South Africa. Despite his poverty, his eventual goal was to be a lawyer. In 1942, Mandela earned his bachelor’s degree. He enrolled in the University of the Witwatersrand for his law degree. He was the only black law student.

Fight for Freedom 

The African National Congress had its young member, Mandela. He convinced the ANC’s head to take a more substantial step towards the black people’s equal rights.  During this period of his life, Mandela also got married to Evelyn Mase, his first wife.

“Apartheid was the policy for arranging the laws and regulations that had kept Africans in an inferior position to whites for centuries. In 1948, the National Party became the ruling party in South Africa and applied apartheid, the political separation and oppression of blacks. The nationalist party restricted black people’s freedom. This agitated the rebellion against Mandela, and he, along with his party, started civil disobedience. 

He got arrested and was confined for a brief period and later again got arrested along with the ANP members and was put on trial. The court sentenced them to nine months of imprisonment for communism but later suspended the sentence. 

By 1952, Mandela had inaugurated a law firm with Oliver Tambo. The authorities insulted them as “kaffir” lawyers, a racial slander. Their firm represented blacks in various police brutality cases but always lost in court. In 1953, The Nationalist government moved blacks to rural areas and gave their homes to white people. This angered Mandela, and he decided to give up the passive resistance. He was considered dangerous and was banned from politics for some years.

In 1956, the South African security police arrested Mandela and 155 other leaders, including nearly every ANC official. The charge was high treason, but the leaders were released pending trial. Mandela was accused by his ANC members of trying to create a Russian- Style Government. 

Mandela’s marriage was on the rocks. Evelyn left with their sons Makgatho and Thembi, and their daughter, Makaziwe. Shortly after, Mandela fell in love with Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela, known as Winnie. He remarried Winnie, and she was active in the women’s ANC group.

The interminable “treason trial” finally ended in March 1961, after four years. Though found innocent, Mandela went into hiding. The security forces issued new warrants for his arrest. He traveled surreptitiously, sometimes posing as a chauffeur or a “garden boy.” The government set up roadblocks to prevent his movements. Newspapers began to write about the former high-profile freedom fighter, now a mysterious will-o’-the-wisp. They called him the “Black Pimpernel.”

Before long, the South African police arrested Mandela for fomenting strikes and for leaving the country without the proper documents. Mandela defended himself at his 1962 trial but did not contest the charges. Finding him guilty, the judge sentenced him to five years in prison with no parole. He was sent to Robben Island, where white jailers greeted him with, “This is the island where you will die!” Soon the authorities brought new charges, for sabotage, against Mandela and the other freedom fighters. The government produced 173 witnesses against them. People worldwide demonstrated on behalf of Mandela and his comrades, but in 1964, they were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.

Their cells were damp, cramped, and unpleasant. Inside the walls, the “Coloreds” (mixed-race peoples) and the Indians received the best (though not good) food. Mandela and the other blacks received the worst.

“I wanted South Africa to see that I loved even my enemies, while I hated the system that turned us against one another.

Mandela always had to be on guard in jail. Once, he turned down a warden who offered to help him escape. Later, he learned that the man was with the Bureau of State Security. He planned that Mandela would be “accidentally” killed during the escape.

Fun Fact-

“I am told that when ‘Free Mandela’ posters went up in London, most young people thought my Christian name was Free.” – Mandela

More black South Africans than ever before joined the fight for freedom. New militant groups formed. The ANC’s popularity increased. The townships were in an uproar. Violence escalated. In 1985, the government offered to free Mandela if he renounced violence. Though he refused, he now believed it was time to negotiate with the Nationalists. As the de facto leader of the freedom movement, he met first with a special committee of Nationalist officials. Their initial topic was the armed struggle. The Nationalists said violence against the state was criminal. Mandela said the state “was responsible for the violence” and that the oppressor, not the oppressed, always “dictates the form of the struggle.”

In early 1990, de Klerk freed Mandela and seven of his comrades. They had imprisoned  Mandela for 27 years. De Klerk also dismantled apartheid. In December, the two men met. The push for black freedom now moved with startling speed.

In 1993, the ANC and de Klerk’s administration announced plans for a “government of national unity,” calling for South Africa to hold its first truly democratic election the following year. For their efforts, Mandela and de Klerk received the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. In April 1994, the ANC won 62.6% of the vote. Shortly thereafter, Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa. He served until 1999.

Work remains to be done. Mandela has not achieved his full original goal, “to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor,” though his country has taken bold steps forward. For now, He says, “We have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed.”


The courageous man is not the fearless one; instead, he is the one who overcomes his fear. According to Mandela, every man has responsibilities towards his country and community.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What was the reason behind singing two national anthems?

The two national anthems- one for Blacks and one for Whites, were sung to symbolize equality and respect for all members of the community, regardless of race.

2. According to Mandela, what does courage mean?

“Courage,” according to Mandela, does not imply the absence of fear but the victory over it. A brave man has overcome his fear of beating all challenges.

3. What are the key points to remember?

Here are the key points:


  • The swearing-in ceremony took place in Pretoria’s beautiful sandstone amphitheater.

  • He wished for Africa’s independence to rule.

  • Army authorities, who could have apprehended him and imprisoned him previously, saluted him to show respect for the newly established democracy.

  • The two national anthems were sung during his swearing-in ceremony.

  • He reflects on the history and pays tribute to national martyrs who gave their lives for the cause of their homeland.

  • The martyrs, he claims, were men of remarkable courage, knowledge, and generosity.

  • He claims that man’s goodness is a burning flame that can be quenched, but never exhausted.

  • He discusses his dual responsibilities, one to his family and the other to his country. He discovered he was not free while performing his duties.

  • As a result, he joined the African National Congress and fought for his country’s independence.

  • He understood that the oppressor, like the oppressed, needed to be liberated.

4. How did Mandela’s perspective of freedom evolve as he grew older and gained experience?

As a child, Mandela believed he was born free as long as he obeyed his father’s demands and followed his clan’s rules. He desired freedom as a student, which he saw as crucial for himself, such as the ability to remain out late at night, read whatever he pleased, and so on. He wished for the freedom to live a simple, dignified life as a young man in Johannesburg. Slowly, he discovered that not only was his freedom limited but that everyone in his town was restricted from living a regular, lawful life. That’s when his desire for personal liberty transformed into a greater desire for the freedom of his people.

5. How did the desire for the freedom of his people animated Nelson Mandela’s life?

The desire for the freedom of his people changed Nelson Mandela’s life. He went from being a frightened young man to being a brave young man. A law-abiding attorney became a criminal as a result of his desire. A family-loving husband was transformed into a homeless guy, while a life-loving man was transformed into a monk. Mandela was neither virtuous nor selfless, and he could not even enjoy limited freedom. When he discovered that his people were not free, he felt robbed. He felt his people’s slavery as if that was his own. His life was influenced by his desire for his people to be free to live their lives with dignity and self-respect. He was given freedom even though his people were not. The right to be free was indivisible. Any of his people’s chains were the chains on all of them, and the chains on all of his people were likewise the chains on him. So, he fought for them.

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